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Top drama series on TVB, ViuTV and Netflix as analyzed by big data  

Source: Wisers     2021.02.25

People need entertainment no matter how the political and social winds blow. In 2020 the demand for entertainment was even more acute as the pandemic had forced people to stay home. They were stuck to the TV even during dinnertime, and local TV viewership bounced back. Netflix’s drama series remained most searched hashtags online. Apart from the pandemic, drama series were what people of different generations talked about most these days. 
Wisers used its artificial intelligence system to analyze over 1.9 million comments and over 3.6 million interactions and likes for over 70 drama series [1] that premiered on TVB, ViuTV and Netflix in 2020. We have come up with the charts of the most talked-about local and non-local drama productions in 2020. Some titles on the charts were smash hits, while some were underdogs. 

[Local drama series] Netting out the effect of “Habitual Viewership”, the share of TVB and ViuTV's audience rating is 6 to 4

TVB drama series: “Al Cappuccino” fails to make it to the top 10 most-talked about drama series; “Come Home Love” is hotly discussed thanks to the different pairs of lovers depicted 

Six out of the ten most talked-about drama series in Hong Kong were produced by TVB, including the top-ranking “Come Home Love:Lo And Behold” and second-ranking “Forensic Heroes IV”. There were as many as 151,979 posts about “Come Home Love:Lo And Behold” for the full year last year, 1.85 times that of “Forensic Heroes IV”. “Hong Kong Love Stories”, the Most Popular Short Series recognized at the 2020 TVB Anniversary Awards Show, was ranked sixth, falling behind  “Airport Striker”. “Legal Mavericks II”, starring the best actor and actress, came in 8th. “Al Cappuccino”, one of the biggest winners at the 2020 TVB Anniversary Awards Show, however, settled at the 12th place only.

Big data showed that the strengths of “Come Home Love:Lo And Behold” lied  with its daily broadcast, the big cast, the extensive network of characters and the multiple pairs of lovers that were well-received by the audience. The romance between Miss Lung Lik Lin and  Song Shui Fai  (played by Mandy Lam Suk-man & Jack Hui Ka-kit), the relationship of Gong Yip and Hung Yeuk Shui (played by Stanley Cheung King-shun & Koni Lui Wai-yee), the bonding between Terry and KC (played by Kim Li Wai-kin & Jimmy Au Sui-wai), and the bromance between Kam Shing On and Chu Ling Ling (played Kalok Chow Ka-lok & Ricco Ng Wai-ho), had attracted the audience's attention and triggered endless discussions. 

Apart from the plot and cast, an incident in the production in mid-2020 had also set tongues wagging in town. Some netizens refused to watch the drama after spotting a pair of yellow gloves that were so arranged to sign the slogan, "five demands not one less" in an episode. Some netizens criticized people's intolerance, while others held that politics should stay away from TV.

"Forensic Heroes IV", which came in second on the most-talked-about chart, was a big hit among TVB drama series in early 2020, recording an average audience rating of 36.3%, the highest among TVB drama series for the full year. The two posts with the highest number of likes and shares were by the female lead Selena Li on Instagram, receiving more than 40,000 likes and comments in total.   “Airport Strikers”, which recorded the second highest audience rating for the full year, came fifth on the chart, as its online sensation was overtaken by two ViuTV drama series. The period drama series “Dripping Sauce” that told the story of a sauce-making family at the turn of the century in early 1990s, was broadcast just when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Hong Kong, and it come in at the tenth place.



ViuTV catches up with touching motivational drama series 

ViuTV’s drama series have aroused heated discussions among netizens in recent years. “Warriors Within” and “We are the Littles” ranked third and fourth on the chart. The online buzz they generated was much higher than that of “Airport Strikers” and “Hong Kong Love Stories”.

There were 53,349 comments about “Warriors Within” last year. On the theme of karate, the drama series was applauded by netizens because of the authentic   Kung Fu skills displayed and the motivational plot. Netizens said there are few motivational drama series in Hong Kong and they hoped there will be a sequel to “Warriors Within”. This drama series broke the viewership records of ViuTV in the first week of broadcasting.
“We are the Littles”, starring basically the same cast as the popular program “Good Night Show - King Maker”, received rave review. A netizen said the last episode of the drama series was wonderful with many connotations, which were so good that the audience would forget about its deficiencies. It was believed that the idols from “Good Night Show - King Maker” had led to the heated discussions about the drama series. Stephy Tang Lai-yan, who made a comeback to the TV, was also eye-catching. Netizens approved her acting, and praised her for the progress made, saying her "crying scenes" were so touching that put her on the same pedestal as the best actress.







Netflix TV series: South Korean dramas starring Oppa (older brothers) stand out; “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Dark” were a sensation online but could not make it to the top 10 chart





Korean dramas ride on the audience’s crush on oppa to stay mainstream;  European and American dramas are also eyecatching

Netflix has expanded its presence rapidly across the globe in recent years, and Hong Kong is no exception. It’s expected that there were 2 million users of video streaming platforms in Hong Kong in 2020. Hongkongers are no longer limited to locally-produced drama series, while Japanese and Korean dramas including "The Uncanny Counter", "Alice in the Borderlands" and "Sweet Home" were the most searched hashtags online in late 2020. Yet they failed to rank among the top ten dramas in terms of online buzz as they were only screened recently and had little time to generate the buzz.
According to Wisers’ big data, the two most talked-about Netflix dramas of the year were Korean dramas featuring Oppa. “The King: Eternal Monarch” ranked first with 32,937 comments and 621,781 likes, followed by “It's Okay to Not Be Okay” with 12,285 comments and 57,918 likes. The two drama series were also the first and second most popular among Netflix users in Hong Kong, but the rankings were reversed. “The King: Eternal Monarch”, featuring South Korean actor Lee Min-ho, was the most anticipated show on the Internet, which also aroused heated discussions. However, it received mixed reviews, with one netizen pointing out that "the actors were good, but the script was a bit disappointing." As for “It's Okay to Not Be Okay”, a netizen affirmed that "it’s a happy ending, with a twist in the plot."

“Hanzawa Naoki Season 2” took the third place. When the first season was broadcast, it was hailed as the best drama, which set off a craze among the audience. The new season was released in September, and within just three months, it had been a sensation and ranked third on the chart of hot searched hashtags. Besides the frequently quoted lines like “a tooth for a tooth” and “a vow of revenge 1,000 times greater in magnitude”, the topics about “Managing Director Owada forcing Hanzawa Naoki to kneel down” and the “exaggerated facial expressions” of the actors and actresses were also much discussed by netizens. At a time when several Japanese celebrities committed suicide amid the pandemic, many netizens were touched by what the wife of Hanzawa Naoki said at the end of the drama series - “There is always a way out.”  
The “Victim’s Game” came in fourth and was the only Taiwanese TV drama to vault into the list. It was a suspense with original screenplay on Netflix. The plot was quite  new and had a fresh appeal to the audience. The “Umbrella Academy” ranked fifth, which was the most well-received western drama among local netizens. “Nothing But Thirty” was the only mainland drama on the chart.

It’s noteworthy that some drama series with not much media attention had made it to the top 10, including the German-American drama “Unorthodox”, which is about a Jewish woman fleeing from Brooklyn to Berlin; as well as the American drama, Good Girls Season 3. Both dramas got high scores on Rotten Tomatoes, a well-known film review website overseas. Popular dramas that have been recommended by media including “The Queen’s Gambit”, “Emily in Paris” and “Ratched” have unexpectedly failed to make it into the top ten, indicating media recommendations may not dictate the tastes of netizens.


(Comprehensive comparison) Local drama series are still the mainstream; Netflix has failed to grab online buzz








This is how we watched TV dramas in 2020 

Big data showed although TVB had higher audience rating, ViuTV was more popular online, especially when we take into account the difference in the number of productions made by the two broadcasters. ViuTV stood out as more competitive in terms of the production of local dramas. In 2020, TVB had an edge in terms of diversity of drama genres and the great variety of subject matters. Its drama series on the top 10 chart were of different genres, including sitcom, crime, love and period drama (turn of the century 1900s). ViuTV was mostly discussed for its motivational dramas, with four such dramas it produced on the list, which struck a chord with netizens. For the long run, whether ViuTV’s drama series can win the competition relies on whether the audience are still in favor of this genre in future, or whether  it can explore more new drama genres to better cater to the audience.

There was a considerable gap between online popularity analysed by big data and viewership among Netflix subscribers. According to Netflix’s data, on the top 10 most popular TV programs among local subscribers, only three drama series were on the top 10 most talked about chart. This may be because netizens in the discussions are not Netflix subscribers. To a certain extent, this also showed that when Hong Kong netizens discussed Netflix drama series, they took the initiative to mention some good non-mainstream drama series.
On the other hand, big data also showed netizens’ diverse tastes in drama series, which was not limited to regions or languages. Korean drama series certainly maintained its lead, while two Chinese-language drama series were also in the limelight.
Among the local and non-local drama series discussed by most people, Hong Kong’s drama series had a significant lead with an overwhelming majority on the chart. “The King: Eternal Monarch” from South Korea is the only non-Hong Kong series among the top 10. The data reflected how free TV broadcast remained the major channel for Hongkongers’ binge-watching. Platforms that require a subscription like Netflix presented drama series covering diversified topics; yet they failed to surpass Hong Kong’s drama productions to become the most talked about ones among netizens.
Some people said binge-watching can help break the ice with others. Would you be making a list of drama series to watch this year?


[1] Selected drama series based on the most popular or recommended lists mentioned by Netflix, Rotten Tomatoes, IMDB and local media. 

Image source: Internet

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