Insights

The global demand for sitcoms

1 July, 2021

Since the sitcom format became popular in the United States during the mid 20th Century, various networks have produced in demand shows that have created loyal audiences throughout their runs. And over the last 30 years, sitcoms such as Seinfeld, Friends, and The Office have created cult followings. The rise of streaming services, along with the genre’s longevity, have made sitcoms one of the most in-demand genres on television. So what are the most current in-demand sitcoms worldwide and what factors have contributed to the longevity of this genre?

The top three sitcoms over the last 30 days

Over the last 30 days, Friends was the most in-demand sitcom worldwide, having 60.4 times more demand than the average show globally. Being one of the most popular sitcoms ever, the show originated on the NBC network in 1994 and ran for ten seasons. A contributing factor to it’s recent demand resurgence to the number one spot would most likely have been the recent Friends: Reunion special that aired on HBO Max on May 27th. This is evident in the chart below, as the global demand for the show rose ten places and peaked as the number two most in-demand show worldwide over the last 30 days. 

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Next was The Big Bang Theory, which had 46.2 times more demand than the average television show worldwide over the last 30 days. The sitcom, which currently resides on Netflix, ranks in the 99.87th percentile of comedy shows, meaning it has a higher demand than 99.87% of all comedy titles worldwide. 

The third most in-demand sitcom over the last 30 days was SpongeBob Squarepants, with the show having 45.0 times more demand than the average show. The humorous storylines continue to  draw children in, while being on various streaming services makes the show an easy watch. The top nine sitcoms shown on the chart below all lie in the exceptional category over the last 30 days, where only 0.2% of series land. This shows the demand for sitcoms as there are a variety of sub genre choices such as animated, mockumentary, and workplace series that cater for a large audience. 

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Competition with other genres

So why are sitcoms constantly in demand worldwide? Audiences usually find something in characters that they can relate to, whether it be their day to day struggles or fun relationships. The genre is also built to reflect the current times, with sitcom Black-ish being a prime example of a show which features snippets of current events through the eyes of a Black family. This along with relatable plots and short episodes make sitcoms a very easy genre for audiences to consume. 

In terms of how they stack up against other television show genres, Friends was the only sitcom in the top ten most in-demand shows over the last 30 days. As mentioned earlier, this is as a result of loyal Friends fans rewatching the series after the reunion special. The main competition of sitcoms comes largely from the action and superhero genres, as shows such as Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, and Money Heist have been in-demand in recent years. These shows have a higher production cost and draw audiences for different reasons than sitcoms, as they create a sense of escapism through fantasy and fiction events. Marvel series such as WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, both of which are on Disney Plus, also fall in this category as they are also in the top ten most in-demand shows over the last 30 days.

Longevity of the genre

Due to there now being an abundance of streaming options and shows to consume for audiences, it is hard for sitcoms to stand out and retain a loyal fanbase. This factor coinciding with the rise of other video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok have shortened attention spans as audiences now look for easy and quick content to consume. For a sitcom to have longevity they need to stand out and create a loyal audience. The Simpsons is a prime example of this as it is a unique series that is relatable through family themes, which is evident as it has now run for 32 seasons. 

Another in-demand sitcom that has had longevity is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This is largely due to being an "anti-sitcom that subverts regular sitcom tropes that audiences expect. An example of this is characters being unlikable and being part of a highly dysfunctional group. The schemes are humorous and the characters’ lack of self awareness are contributing factors to why the show is the fifth longest running American sitcom. Over the last 30 days, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia had 22.4 times more demand than the average television show, ranking it 16th in the sitcom genre. 

Due to the demand for sitcoms, there is a significant amount of competition between networks to win over audiences. Over the last 30 days, the top 20 sitcoms were produced by ten different networks. Of these ten, three networks each produced three of these top 20 sitcoms. They include NBC (Friends, The Office, and Community), CBS (The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, and How I Met Your Mother) and Fox (Brooklyn 99, The Simpsons, and Family Guy). 

 Streaming services allow for audiences to rewatch series that have ended, which makes the ones that hold up today such as Friends still an in-demand sitcom. Sitcoms have been one of the most in-demand television genres for decades due to their humour, interesting characters, and relatability, and should be for many more to come due to the high quality of current sitcoms.

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