Song Joong-ki’s ‘Arthdal Chronicles’ records lowest TV rating to date

Song Joong-ki‘s Arthdal Chronicles has hit a record low TV rating of 4.8 percent on its 15th episode which aired Saturday night on tvN, data from Nielsen Korea show.

The latest episode rating is 2.4 percentage points smaller than the previous episode rating of 7.2 percent. The previous lowest record stands at 5.8 percent, which the series obtained for its episodes 5, 7, and 9.

Arthdal Chronicles has hit a record low rating of 4.8 percent (highlighted in orange), down by 2.9 percentage points from its peak record of 7.7 percent (blue).

The number of viewers who tuned in to Arthal Chronicles also reached a record low of 1.46 million people, which is smaller than the 1.97 million who watched the drama’s previous episode on September 8.

Arthdal Chronicles seems to be still suffering from lower-than-expected viewership performance after the premiere of its third and last part last week, which consists of episodes 14 to 18. The first two parts of the ‘Netflix original series’ was broadcast from June 1 to July 7, 2019. The break between the first two parts—which are also comprised of six episodes each—and the third part has caused the series to lose momentum.

However, the latest drop in the drama’s ratings can be attributed to Chuseok, a major three-day holiday in South Korea that is equivalent to the Thanksgiving Day in the US. This year, Chuseok falls on September 13 but the holiday is celebrated from September 12 to 14.

During the Chuseok week, most TV stations prepare special programs and family members gather together in celebration of the holiday. For this year, such programs have replaced some regular primetime variety shows and dramas, including MBN’s Graceful family, MBC’s Rookie Historian Goo Hae-ryung, and OCN’s Strangers From Hell.

Arthdal Chronicles Poster (Part 3)
Main poster of Arthdal Chronicles Part 3

Arthdal Chronicles is one of the regular shows that did not cancel its broadcast during the Chuseok week this year. For tvN, canceling the broadcast of the series right after its return from a two-month break might do more harm than good for the ratings. The drama’s part 3 premiered a week after the conclusion of Yeo Jin-goo’s and IU’s Hotel del Luna, which is the highest-rated Korean drama on cable TV so far in 2019.

The 4.8 percent rating of the drama is still an impressive record for a show that is airing on cable TV. However, with three more episodes left, Arthdal Chronicles is least likely to achieve a double-digit viewership and its overall average rating is poised to stay close to 6.5 percent. This figure is not small per se, but when the drama’s huge production budget of 54 billion won (US$45.8 million) is taken into account, it is not high either.

The average budget for Korean dramas is reported to be around 350 million won ($297,000) per episode, but at least 8 times this amount, or 3 billion won, was spent per episode to produce Arthdal Chronicles. Meanwhile, Mr. Sunshine and Descendants Of The Sun—two of the most successful Korean dramas in recent years—had put up only 40 billion won ($33.9 million) and 13 billion won ($13 million), respectively, for their productions.

Mr. Sunshine Poster
Poster of the 2018 historical drama Mr. Sunshine

The 54 billion production cost of Arthdal Chronicles makes it one of the most expensive Korean dramas ever produced. A chunk of this budget was used to build expensive drama sets and pay its star-studded cast led by Song Joong-ki, Jang Dong-gun, Kim Ji-won, and Kim Ok-bin.

Produced by the director of My Mister and screenwriter of Tree With Deep Roots, Arthdal Chronicles is an ancient historical drama set in the fictional land of Arth where different tribes fight against each other for power and survival. Its final episode will be broadcast on September 22.

Won Jin-ah and Ji Chang-wook’s Melting Me Softly will replace Arthdal Chronicles on the Saturday-Sunday time slot of tvN beginning September 28.

Sources: 1 | 2

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