Back in 2015, FX CEO John Landgraf proclaimed this the era of “peak TV.” And it’s hard to argue with him. In 2017 alone, there were 487 scripted shows on air, the most in history. With slimmer, customizable cable packages and the advent of streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu, consumers have more TV choices than ever.
Still, not all TV shows are created equal. For every Stranger Things, we get a host of duds. And TV shows are often made for a target demographic, meaning they appeal more to different subsets of viewers.
With that in mind, we wanted to better understand how some of TV’s hottest shows resonate with different demographic and geographic groups. So we teamed up with Ranker.com, a website that polls millions of users for their opinions on sports, politics, food, and pop culture. We’ve taken data from Ranker’s list of the “Best TV Shows Currently on the Air” and looked at the age and gender of those responsible for upvoting certain choices.
So without further ado, here’s a look at the top 10 shows on Ranker’s list.
The Demographic Divide for Top TV Shows
Game of Thrones sits atop Ranker’s current list, following another record-breaking season on HBO. As one might expect, Ranker’s data shows that 57% of GoT upvotes come from male users1. Only South Park -- the raunchy American sitcom by Trey Parker and Matt Stone -- skews more male among shows in the top ten.
The majority of shows towards the top of the list have cultivated a large female following. Supernatural and Outlander have the most female-heavy fanbases, with 63% and 58% of upvotes coming from women, respectively. Stranger Things is not far behind at 57%.
Users under 30 are responsible for a plurality of upvotes for eight of the top ten shows. This is likely a reflection of the fact that Ranker’s (and the Internet’s) demographics skew younger than that of traditional TV viewers.
However, two shows stand out for bucking the trend. CBS’s The Big Bang Theory derives nearly 40% of its upvotes from users in the 30-49 age range. And Outlander -- an original series from STARZ now in its fourth season -- is the only show to capture the highest share of upvotes from the 50+ age group.
Where You Live May Influence Your Tastes in Television
We also looked at whether affinities for certain shows differ across eight geographic regions in the U.S.
Game of Thrones and Stranger Things clearly have mass appeal nationwide. Both have been upvoted nearly 70% of the time across all regions. GoT had the highest ratio of upvotes to downvotes in the Far West, while Stranger Things was most revered in New England.
Other shows see more variation. The Big Bang Theory has been upvoted 55% of the time in the Southeast, but only 38% of the time in New England. The Simpsons is still net positive in the Far West, but nowhere else in the country.
Finding the Right TV Show for You
So what’s the takeaway? That even the most highly-rated TV shows from the golden age of television are certainly not loved by all. But that’s why this new era of TV is so exciting. Streaming services continue to flood their platforms with new content, giving viewers of all backgrounds access to shows tailored for them. And while navigating hundreds of choices can be daunting, we hope that this analysis at least serves as a cursory guide to what popular TV shows could be right for you - if you haven’t already binged them all.
- Users for which we had no gender information were excluded from this stat. ↩︎
Graphics were created in Tableau.