No modern socio-political history of the United States would be complete without a (ginormous) chapter on the threat of communism and its impact on our society in general and our politics in particular. Communism has constantly intruded upon the American psyche -- from the “Red Scare” of the 1920s, to the current dynastic ambitions of Russian President, Vladimir Putin… and everything in between, such as the post-World War II division of Germany; the Berlin Wall; Richard Nixon versus Alger Hiss; the McCarthy Hearings of the 1950s; the Cuban Missile Crises; the “Domino Theory”; the Korean and Vietnam Wars; ad infinitum.
And add to that list -- in the context of our current blog on FX’s critically-acclaimed series, “The Americans” -- the ratcheting up of Soviet “Cold War” rhetoric under President Reagan in the 1980s, which in retrospect wasn’t all just rhetoric since the CIA armed the mujahedeen against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
And, thus, the Regan-era setting for “The Americans,” a title with a half twist since a regular suburban American couple, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (played by Mathew Rhys and Keri Russell) are neither so regular nor American. They are in fact spies – Soviet KGB spies (Mischa and Nadezhda) embedded as “sleeper agents” in a Washington, D.C. suburb, posing as an American couple with two kids. They pull it off so well that even their own children are unaware of their parents’ true profession.
One of the fascinating aspects of the show is the parallel between the married life of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings and their covert work as Soviet spies. Let’s just say that both their marriage and their work has its ups and downs and the toll of leading double lives places an enormous strain on both their marriage and their children.
The show has won (or has been nominated for) several notable awards (including “Television Program of the Year” from The American Film Institute), and is also a huge fan favorite on such film review web sites as “Metacritic” and “Rotten Tomatoes.” And, yet, despite all the accolades, “The Americans” has only generated fair (not “great”) Live TV ratings, and despite the buzz generated about the show by the end of Season One, “The Americans” actually lost ground in Season Two ratings before stabilizing in Season Three:
But there’s more to the ratings story than meets the eye in the above chart. This dramatic, period piece series is actually attracting much higher viewership levels than indicated by just Live-only household ratings. Below we’ve graphed the ratings for each and every episode from Season Three (2015) on the basis of Live-Only, as well as 15-Day DVR viewing. Bottom line: The DVR ratings (on average) are three-times higher than the Live-Only ratings:
Upscale & Educated
Regardless of the absolute size of the show’s audience, “The Americans” attracts a very high concentration of homes that are both upscale and highly educated. In the graph directly below, you can see household ratings rise with higher levels of income. Homes with $250,000+ income, for example, have a rating twice the size of homes with under $30,000 a year in income (.83 vs. .42.) And in the chart below that, homes that contain a member with an advanced graduate degree watch “The Americans” at a 47% greater rate than the average American home (146.8 Index):
Local Cable Advertising
Local Cable advertising demand for “The Americans” is very strong… and growing. Over the past two seasons (2014 & 2015), over 200 cable advertisers ordered nearly 2,000 30-second spots across 40 Viamedia markets. And within the markets that exhibited advertising on the show over the past two seasons, we have seen a 36% increase in ad investments, driven primarily by an increase in the number of 30-second spots. (Source: B.I.G.SM database -- Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)
Given the high profile nature of “The Americans”, which has received numerous accolades, it comes as no surprise that the Tune-In category captures the largest share of cable dollars (36%.) It also doesn’t hurt that this series attracts very upscale and highly educated viewers – an audience that is highly desirable to other cable programmers:
Season Four of “The Americans” premieres on March 16th, and when we last left Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, the pressures of leading a double life came to an extreme boil. Putting aside all of the double-dealings; the murders and the steamy, extra-marital affairs… their dangerous profession has intruded upon their family life in a very intimate way. You see, the KGB has suggested that Mr. and Mrs. Jennings recruit their very own daughter, Paige (played by the actress Holly Taylor), to enter into the “family business.” Paige’s shock and dismay about what her parents really do for a living leads her to eventually blurt out the truth to the leader of her Christian youth group. It all makes for the sort of taut drama that has engaged critics and viewers alike over the past three seasons, and promises to do so again in Season Four.