Why is the USA Network So Popular?
It’s not a secret that broadcast networks don’t draw in the large audiences like they did decades ago. Many Americans tend to favor cable networks over broadcast networks nowadays because they offer shorter seasons, no interruptions or repeats, and have a much leaner restriction on nudity, violence, and profanity. So if Americans aren’t watching the big four networks, what cable channel networks are they watching? Most likely, it’s the USA Network.
Last summer, USA was the most watched cable network in total viewers (3.61 million viewers), and also number one in the highly coveted adults 18-49 demo (Nielsen Media Research). The USA Network has been the number one cable network for six consecutive quarters. Despite all these accolades, the lingering question on many people’s mind is why is this network so popular?
USA doesn’t have any prestigious shows that rack up nominations at every awards show like AMC, TNT, or the pay-cable channels. USA shows are rarely on the covers of Entertainment magazines touting big actors or season changing story arcs. So what makes this network so popular?
It’s a very easy question to answer. USA is a great network because all of their shows are essentially the same. People know what to expect from their shows before they even watch. USA benefits from a great slogan, “characters welcome.” All of their shows are character-based. Most of their shows just focus on one or two characters, rather than an ensemble of 8-10 characters. Focusing on one or two core characters in-depth enhance the viewers’ experience of watching a show. They’ll be more to relate, fall in love, and form a relationship with the characters much more easily than if they were watching a show with a bigger cast.
USA’s shows are also very simple and easy to watch. The majority of their current original programming are primarily crime, law, or medicine-based. The programming on USA isn’t like broadcast networks where each night there’s different types of programming each hour. On USA, there’s a standard format to their shows. If a new show premieres, you can guarantee it’s similar in some form to at least one other show on USA’s lineup. Sometimes it may be bad if there’s not a lot of variety on a network, but it works for USA.
Other reasons why USA has risen to the popularity that it has within the last couple of years, their shows have the perfect mix of drama, comedy, action, and fast-paced dialogue, the majority of their shows are light-procedurals, so it’s easy to start watching at any point of the season and not get completely lost in the story. The network has a very diverse collection of actors, stories, and unique characters too offer. That’s something that can’t be said for many networks.
USA also benefits from successfully syndicating popular shows from network television. Shows like House, NCIS, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (which are all character-driven dramas) are often top shows during the day or week for USA (Nielsen Media Research), giving USA the opportunity to promote their original programming while millions of eyeballs are watching throughout the day.
Most importantly, USA doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s not a network that’s frequently rewarded with Emmys, and the good thing is that it doesn’t try to. USA doesn’t seem to be chasing awards, but chasing viewers – with its light, entertaining, fun, and quirky drama series.
Shows like Burn Notice, Suits, Necessary Roughness, and Psych may be not the most critically-acclaimed and most talked about series on television, they are some of the highest-rated on cable, and that’s something to brag about.
If you haven’t figured out why USA is so popular, this summer is a perfect chance to see what you’ve been missing out on.