A good day to be a dog

The broadcasting decision that drove A Good Day to Be a Dog to ratings hell

Even if you’re not watching A Good Day to Be a Dog, you may have heard about its very odd release schedule and how that’s affecting viewership.

It turns out that perversely, this unpopular move may be an experiment to maximize profits by MBC.

An inkling that not all is right

The Cha Eun-woo and Park Gyu-young drama had started its first week with a respectable 2.2% and 2.8% for the first two episodes, respectively.

But despite the moderately strong start, the drama’s network, MBC, decided to play dice with its fate and fixed on a one-episode-per-week release schedule after that.

This is an unusual choice for a show with a star cast in the romance comedy genre. Although the show is helmed by a director who’s unused to working on dramas, PD Kim Dae-woong has done an excellent job on bringing the original webtoon’s aesthetics and feelings to life on screen. First time writer, Baek In-ah has also done a great job of adapting the popular webtoon to the drama format.

With everything that the drama has going for it, it’s an astonishing choice to hobble its success by choosing such a release schedule. Unsurprisingly, episode 3 netted a 1.9% rating domestically, while the drama faded out of the top spots on OTT platforms.

Then, with no explanation, MBC decided to release no new episodes between October 18th and November 1st. The fourth episode aired to 1.7%.

The absurd release schedule

If you’re familiar with drama viewing patterns, you’ll note that this would be especially alarming for the network because episode 4 is where the romance kick starts in earnest. Usually, this episode would have seen at least a mild bump in ratings.

To further aggravate the situation, they decided episode 5 should be released 2 weeks after 4.

So, far, here’s how the airing of the drama has panned out:

October 11 – Episode 1 & 2
October 18 – Episode 3
October 25 – Skipped
November 1 – Episode 4
November 8 – Skipped
November 15 – Episode 5

This is worse than one-episode-per-week, since we’re barely getting one episode every two weeks now.

Streaming has changed profit models

Of course, the final death knell from MBC was the choice to barely have any reruns of the A Good Day to Be a Dog on television. Usually when a network sees interest in a show, they announce multiple reruns, so domestic audiences can catch it at different hours of the day on their TV. Drama ratings often rise in this way.

An article on KBIZoom points out the weird difference in treatment towards another popular MBC show, My Dearest, which got up to 20 reruns against A Good Day to Be a Dog‘s 2.

Right now, it does feel like the network first drilled holes in the boat, and then noting all the water rushing in, abandoned it entirely because it was sinking.

But then a Naver article shed some new light on the bizarre choices by the show’s producers.

한 방송국 관계자는 “주 1회 편성을 하게 되면 제작비가 절약이 된다”라며 “그만큼 편성표를 오랫동안 차지하고 있으니 콘텐츠 준비 기간이 늘어나 여유롭게 준비할 수 있고 방송 기간이 길어서 광고나 오랫동안 받을 수 있다”라고 말했다. (source: Naver News)

An official from a broadcasting station said, “If you program it once a week, production costs are saved. Since it occupies the schedule for a long time, the content preparation period increases, so you can prepare leisurely, and the broadcast period is long, so you can receive advertisements for a long time.” (Translation)

It appears that the broadcasters would like to extend the airing schedule to at least 3 months, so they can make more advertising money for a longer period of time. The fact that basic production profits are already covered by overseas sale of airing rights to OTT platforms like Rakuten Viki makes it safer for networks to experiment with airing schedules.

한 드라마 PD는 “방송국에서 주1회 편성을 하는 것은 해당 드라마들이 대부분 해외 선판매로 수익을 이미 올렸기 때문이다”라며 “이미 해외 시장에서 수익을 거둔 작품일 경우 시청률이 중요한 것은 아니기 때문에 주1회 편성이 가능하다”라고 설명했다. (source: Naver News)

A drama producer said, “The reason broadcasting stations airing it once a week is because most of the dramas in question have already made profits through overseas pre-sales.” (Translation)

Networks are thinking short term

So, basically, they don’t care that viewers dislike the one episode per week schedule because their basic profits don’t depend on the show’s popularity any more.

However, this is still insane thinking to me since advertisers aren’t idiots and won’t sponsor shows with poor ratings, especially when they see that networks are no longer incentivized to maximize viewership.

MBC isn’t the only network doing such nonsense. As the article points out, SBS and jtbc have also experimented with The Killing Vote and Nevertheless respectively, sinking both dramas domestically.

It’s important for shows to do well inside South Korea because that’s often a crucial factor in whether the project gets enough word of mouth or even marketing overseas. Even though Nevertheless bucked that trend a bit, with a rating of 1.7% for its final episode, the show barely surfaced at home.

The thinking behind these experiments seems to be that since people are now used to entire seasons dropping at the same time on digital platforms, viewers would have the same lack of patience for twice a week airing schedule, as they would for once a week schedules.

다른 방송 관계자는 “예전에는 월화, 수목, 금토 드라마 몇 시 방송이 명확하게 있었지만 지금은 시청 시간 벽이 무너졌기 때문에 방송사가 다양한 시도를 하고 있다”라고 설명했다. (source: Naver News)

Another broadcasting official explained, “In the past, there were clear schedules for Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday-Thursday, and Friday-Saturday dramas to be broadcast, but now that the viewing time barrier has been broken, broadcasters are trying various things.” (Translation)

While I would argue that this ignores the vast viewership following dramas week to week, even on digital platforms, their data probably does show a dip in TV viewing practices which is likely what is driving networks to experiment with their airing schedules.

Ultimately, this is a time for churning in South Korean broadcasting, and just like they’ve been through other tumultuous periods, they will get through this too.

But for now, they’re sacrificing dramas with decent potential for advertising revenue that would surely be higher for a show that was allowed to pick more audience.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *