Korean dramas nowadays are immensely popular and continue to attract more people to jump on the bandwagon. Aside from mere word of mouth about a certain good drama, its rating performance also propels viewers to invest time and watch it.
Currently, there are two companies which provide these viewership ratings in South Korea, namely, Nielsen Korea (formerly known as AGB Nielsen Media Research) and TNS Media Korea (TNmS). Before 1999, there was only one company providing such information called Media Service Korea. This was acquired by Nielsen Media Research and since then, another company—TNmS—provided the same service. Nielsen has 2,050 participating households for their viewership data collection while TNmS covers 2,000 households nationwide. The two rating agencies use a measuring tool called People Meter attached to receptors in television sets in different areas nationwide such as Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Kwang Ju, Dae Jun and other smaller cities. Despite the similarities in their scope and method, the ratings released by the two research companies have differences. Actual figures released by two companies are not the same but present the same trend in ratings most of the time. But what do the rating figures really imply? And to whom these numbers really matter?
Kdrama TV ratings are not just any number but reflect the drama preference of the general Korean audience. Viewers are informed of the dramas that are more popular and trendy these days by just looking at these numbers. What’s common to hit dramas is their appeal to the reality of life. Dramas are able to mirror the world that we live in that even if the truth they present is unpleasant, dark, mundane or superficial, we still get to relate to and appreciate them. Thus, good ratings possibly indicate a high level of relatability and other reasons such as compelling plot, good casting, and interesting screenplay.
Aside from knowing what’s hit, Kdrama TV ratings will give the viewers an idea of a drama’s respective score. A proper way to look at ratings, however, is to consider the television network on which the drama is airing or had been aired. For Free-to-Air (FTA) dramas or those that air on KBS, MBC, or SBS, a good benchmark for a commercial success is between 10 to 15 % while for them to be considered a “hit”, they should surpass the 20 % mark. Descendants of the Sun was the top-rated drama of 2016 with an impressive average rating of 28.58 %. On the other hand, for cable dramas airing on tvN, JTBC or OCN, it would be good enough to reach 3 to 5 % viewership ratings and would be exceptional to break through the 5 % mark. Last year, Goblin had set a new record (12.81%) to beat for average ratings. The difference in the rating benchmark between FTA and cable dramas is due to the lower audience reach in paid cable channels relative to the publicly and freely available networks.
Since ratings indicate which dramas are watched by the viewers, these figures are important to the producers of the show, its actors and the TV station on which it is airing. High ratings serve as an incentive to the director, writer and those involved in shooting the drama to do better in their jobs. Outstanding rating performance can also lead to a drama’s extension (more episodes or even more seasons). An example would be the Reply series of tvN which achieved groundbreaking records for Korean cable dramas and had three successful installments. Conversely, poor ratings can result in a reduction in the original episode count of the drama. This could sometimes be unfortunate and frustrating for viewers especially when a drama is totally good but is just underrated.
High Kdrama TV ratings do not guarantee that you would actually like a certain drama. Although top-rated dramas also sometimes earn major awards, your personal preference as someone who watches K-dramas is still your best tool in assessing which dramas to watch and to like. No one can take that from you. Ratings are not an absolute guide but rather a good empirical indicator. In doubt, it is always better to have some grounded basis than nothing.
About the Author: Icygrey is a student finishing her master’s degree in Industrial Economics. She is an adventurous foodie who loves to try new flavors and new food in new places. Email her at [email protected]