Major Content Trends in 2018

We analyzed this year’s pilot season to determine what audiences will be watching in 2018.

By  Kendra Menard
On 03/29/2018

Do you hear that sound, Los Angeles? It’s the sound of thousands of actors stampeding to auditions. Pilot season is in full swing with a variety of show hopefuls beginning production this month.

To keep our brand clients aware of opportunities, we’ve gathered a snapshot of the major trends coming to market in TV and streaming this year. The 2018 TV will feature tried and true formats with a larger dose of diversity behind and in front of the camera. Dive deep below:

LAW ENFORCEMENT

The police procedural is by no means new to the television landscape. Law and Order: SVU is currently on season 19 and based on the pilots greenlit this year, the genre isn’t going anywhere. ABC’s Take Two, NBC’s In Between Lives, and CBS’s F.B.I. are just a few of the twenty-two law enforcement pilots ordered this year. This is a 44% increase in the number ordered just last year.

One only needs to look at the ratings of the NCIS and Chicago franchises to see that procedurals are a safe and profitable bet for the networks. Audiences can miss several episodes without feeling lost when they jump back into the show, and the formulaic structure of these shows don’t require a viewer’s undivided attention while watching. With more ad dollars tied to dramas than any other genre on television and the potential for lucrative syndication deals, it’s clear this genre will continue to be dominant for the foreseeable future.

DIVERSITY

One of the most noteworthy trends this pilot season is the sharp increase in pilots starring women and people of color. In broadcast pilots, we’ve seen a jump of 81% in female lead characters and only a slight increase of 6% for multicultural characters. This number, however, is likely to increase as the topic of inclusion reflects the conversations people are having today.

Many of the shows featuring women as lead characters come from the law enforcement genre. The Bad Boys Spin-off (Gabrielle Union & Jessica Alba), Mrs. Otis Regrets (Katie Holmes), Chiefs (Aunjanue Ellis & Alana De La Garza), and The Holmes Sisters Project (Tisha Campbell-Martin) all have women suiting up in officer blue.

In a post-Weinstein, #MeToo entertainment industry, it was expected that the networks would strive for more inclusion in their programming going into 2018. The networks have at times faced backlash in the past for greenlighting shows that only star leading male characters. Also, the continued success of shows like This Is Us, Empire, and How to Get Away with Murder have made it undeniably clear that audiences are hungry for more diversity in television.

Women are making waves behind the camera as well. In 2017, only four women were hired to direct broadcast pilots. This year, 14 dramas and 9 comedies will be directed by women. Five of the fourteen women directing dramas are women from multicultural backgrounds.

REBOOTS, REMAKES, & SPIN-OFFS

What’s old is still new again! The Reboot, Remake, Spin-Off trend is one that looks to be continuing well into 2018. With the success of Young Sheldon and Will & Grace, networks are keeping the trend alive with orders for Magnum P.I. (CBS), Cagney and Lacey (CBS), Get Christie Love (ABC), Charmed (The CW), and Murphy Brown (CBS). Cable and streaming networks are just as gung ho on refreshing shows of the not-so-distant past. Noteworthy examples include The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix), Mayans MC (FX), and Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists (Freeform).

With an overwhelming amount of content to choose from, it’s no wonder people are returning to old properties and characters they have familiarity. There’s a certain comfort in returning to a show with a familiar storyline and characters that feel like old friends. Why spend an hour searching through Netflix when you can check in with your old pals Jack, Karen, Will, and Grace?

DYS-FUN!-CTIONAL FAMILIES

Broadcast television is still the place to go for a wide selection of family-friendly sitcoms, but one emerging trend has centered around non-traditional families. Plot lines this year involve divorced parents (Rel, Single Parents), badly behaving parents (I Mom So Hard, Daddy Issues), and the delightfully dysfunctional (Playing Dead, Our People, Pandas in New York, Fam). If audiences truly desire to see more accurate and relatable representations of families on television, there may be plenty of options to watch this fall.

We will have to wait until the networks make their series order announcements to see if these trends become the new normal. For brands, keeping an eye on the latest trends can keep you a step ahead of the game and tuned into what your audience will be bingeing next fall season.


Kendra Menard is a Content Coordinator at the Branded Entertainment Network.