Why Designated Survivor Has Not Been As Big Of A Hit As ABC Hoped

designated survivor season 1 abc

When the new Keifer Sutherland-led drama Designated Survivor kicked off on ABC earlier this season, there was reason to believe the political thriller would be a big hit. In fact, the premiere hit a Live+ 7 Day record, with more than 17 million viewers tuning in to catch the new show. Unfortunately, the show hasn't seen such great heights since then. In fact, the show's average Live+ Same Day viewership, especially, has been lower than anticipated. ABC President Channing Dungey recently revealed exactly why she thinks Designated Survivor has underperformed in the weeks since it initially premiered...

Look, in terms of the ratings, the show has not performed quite as strongly in the Live/Same Day [Nielsen ratings] as we were hoping. I think some of that has to do with White House politics fatigue, because when you look at how we do over [seven days of DVR playback], we're regularly going up in triple digits.

Basically, her theory is that there has been a lot of news related to the election over the past few months. There was a lot of friction between people in both parties before the election even happened in November, and while that normally slows down after the election, Donald Trump has ensured there is plenty to talk about in the weeks following the big event. Because of all of this, Channing Dungey told EW that she does believe all of the political stuff that's out there is driving viewership away.

Of course, that wouldn't totally explain the fact that Designated Survivor is still doing solid DVR viewership. If people were simply turned off by the thought of watching a fictional show about politics when there is so much transition going on in our own government, they probably wouldn't be watching the series later in the week, either. Still, while it's encouraging to know that people are still watching the show, for a network like ABC that needs good advertising rates to thrive, live viewership is an important part of bringing home the bacon.

ABC also told the outlet at TCA that they are going to try to delve further into the personal relationships of the main characters instead of just twists as a way to grab more interest from viewers. The show is also retooling, and has signed on new showrunner Jeff Melvoin to take Designated Survivor in this brand new direction.

We'll have to wait and see if this plan works. A lot of ABC's big new dramas this fall have fallen short of expectations, including Notorious and Conviction, which both had their episode orders cut. While Designated Survivor has been given additional episodes, which shows a bit more confidence in the series, it hasn't been the runaway hit that ABC--nay, most of us--thought the show would be during its first week on the air.

Designated Survivor is being given an extended winter hiatus and will not be returning to the schedule until Wednesday, March 8 at 10 p.m. ET. To find out when the rest of your favorites are returning, take a look at our midseason TV premiere schedule

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Jessica Rawden is Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. She’s been kicking out news stories since 2007 and joined the full-time staff in 2014. She oversees news content, hiring and training for the site, and her areas of expertise include theme parks, rom-coms, Hallmark (particularly Christmas movie season), reality TV, celebrity interviews and primetime. She loves a good animated movie. Jessica has a Masters in Library Science degree from Indiana University, and used to be found behind a reference desk most definitely not shushing people. She now uses those skills in researching and tracking down information in very different ways.