'Secret Life of the American Teenager' and 'Switched at Birth': Why ABC Family is on the Rise
The premiere of the new ABC Family series "Switched at Birth" drew in a record-breaking 3.3 million viewers, giving it the highest-rated series debut for ABC Family ever. Those numbers were enough to dethrone "The Secret Life of the American Teenager," which debuted roughly three seasons ago to an audience of 2.8 million.
These are impressive numbers for a cable network, especially one that's just beginning to find its identity through its original content. Yet the concepts behind these shows are simple: "Switched at Birth" is (as you might guess) about two girls that were accidentally switched at birth, and "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" has featured recurring themes of teen pregnancy. There are no vampires, or werewolves, or any other fad themes...in fact, the shows are almost soap-opera-esque, if anything.
So what's the big deal?
It seems that ABC Family has stumbled upon a demographic that has always consumed media but has not always been catered to: the teenage girl. You always hear about the coveted "males 18 to 34" demographic as the one everyone wants to target, but with the success of the "Twilight" franchise and other teen girl media, it looks like there might be a new group to focus on. ABC Family, it would seem, has figured this out.
The shows themselves are an illustration of how targeted storytelling can capture an audience. The themes of sex and teen pregnancy on "Secret Life" are ones that teenagers deal with themselves one way or another and the show, despite its fairly obvious pro-life stance, provides a hypothetical to play the fears that come along with adolescence out in a way that's safe. The overall message of "Secret Life" seems to be this: everything is going to be all right.
"The Secret Life of the American Teenager" still performs well on ABC Family, with the second-season premiere in 2009 drawing an impressive 4.68 million viewers. The premiere of the current season last summer dropped to 3.18 million, and currently season three is averaging about 350,000 viewers fewer per episode than season two. But with the season three finale yet to air, those numbers could still pick up.
In any case, "Secret Life" isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and neither is ABC Family. In fact, the network has three more original series premiering this summer: "Chloe," "The State of Georgia," and "The Lying Game." Keep an eye out for big premieres for those as well.
Are you a "Secret Life of the American Teenager" fan? Let us know what you love about the show in the comments!