With a title like “Queen of the South,” you could almost imagine USA’s second year drama as some sort of western adventure series about a side-paddle steamer plying its trade up and down the Mississippi. There was in fact such a show in 1960 called, “Riverboat,” starring Darren McGavin and (a young) Burt Reynolds.
Ah… so much for the innocent days of early TV!
USA’s “Queen of the South” is modern day blow-torch realism… as in drugs, gangs, violence and murder. Lots of murder. The story is taken from a novel that was turned into a telenovela about south of the border drug lords trafficking their goods into the U.S. via the state of Texas. The “Queen” is Teresa Mendoza (played by the Brazilian actress, Alice Braga Moraes, of “I am Legend” fame) whose tale is one of rags to riches. She starts out as the girlfriend of a low level Mexican drug dealer, Guero Davila (played by the American actor, Jon Michael-Ecker) who is killed off by a vengeful drug lord. His death leaves Teresa Mendoza in a highly vulnerable (and deadly) position as she is pursued by the bloody-minded Don Epifanio Vargas (played by the Portuguese actor, Joaquim de Almeida.) He’s the wrong sorta guy you want on your tail. He’s not only the head of the Vargas drug cartel, but is also politically ambitious as he runs for governor in a drug-infested region of Mexico.
Eventually, Teresa Mendoza is captured and smuggled into Dallas where she comes under the control of Don Epifanio Vargas’s sinister wife, Dona Camila (played by Mexican-born actress, Veronica Falcon.) She is the queen of U.S. drug distribution and a perfect model for Teresa Mendoza who aspires to one day lead her own drug cartel. We know Teresa Mendoza eventually makes it to the top because the entire series begins with her attempted assassination as she sits in her palatial mansion dressed to the nines.
This intense, action-packed drama pulled down a .59 Live U.S. household rating in Season One (good for a 1.0 U.S. share.) For many networks, that rating would be welcomed, but at USA Network the “Queen of the South” under-performed its 10pm time slot. Still, the show accrued a tremendous amount of DRV usage – a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement. For example, the Live+ 15-Day DVR rating is 3-times higher than the Live-only rating:
Deep Southern Skew
Given that Dallas is a major transportation hub for the Vargas drug cartel, we assumed that “Queen of the South” would be especially popular in several Texas markets. We looked at the first five episodes from the Premiere Season (2016) and found that -- it’s not just Texas -- but the entire Deep South that is enthralled with the show. Out of the Top 25 viewing DMAs, every single one of them is south of the Mason-Dixon Line with over half of them found in the three Gulf States of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi:
Local Cable Advertising
“Queen of the South” has been on air for only one season, so we have no baseline comparisons to quantify year-over-year sales metrics. But based on records we have for other first year shows, the show received strong support in its inaugural season. All in all, “Queen of the South” attracted 62 inaugural advertisers who ordered 330 spots across 31 Viamedia markets (40+% of Viamedia’s national footprint.) That comes to an average of 5.3 spots per advertiser.
(Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2017 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
In terms of local market advertising categories, Automotive captures nearly two-thirds of all cable ad investments – a share level that is double what we normally see for this category company-wide. The Tune-in category (TV/Radio/Media) at 14% share is over-represented as well, by a factor of anywhere from 5-to-10 times the level we normally see (depending on the time of year):
“Queen of the South” is brutally violent, and the violence can occur without much notice. And at the apex of all this mayhem stands a self-made woman, Teresa Mendoza, who occupies a position normally reserved for men. That’s what makes this series so jarring: a glamorous, model-like female drug lord who will charm, cheat and murder (if need be) to maintain and protect her drug empire. And if the writers and directors could just develop the characters with a little more depth and believability, then “Queen of the South” could be a real breakout hit in its second season. But not for the faint of heart… nor the kids.