IRIS’s popularity still falls short of expectations
At first, I was a little taken aback at the way the following article frames IRIS‘s popularity in terms of disappointment, because it burst onto the scene with a big splash and has maintained a comfortable lead over its competition. But I suppose this all points to where expectations play into a drama’s perceived success (among other factors that are discussed below). This is why a “small drama” like You’re Beautiful is being called a modest success despite its 9%-10% ratings (on account of its mania fanbase, lower budget, and less-famous cast), while IRIS has been performing more than twice as well and still gets mixed reception as not fulfilling its hype.
IRIS has hot popularity — why the lukewarm ratings?
It’s talked about widely. But the ratings are lower than expected. KBS’s Wednesday-Thursday drama IRIS finds itself in between hot popularity and lukewarm viewership ratings.
IRIS‘s average rating last week was 27.2% (AGB Nielsen Media). A 2.4% increase from the previous week, it took up the No. 2 slot in the overall broadcast ratings, after MBC’s Monday-Tuesday drama Queen Seon-seok (38.8%). On the outside, it’s a number that should be satisfactory.
However, considering its ambitious cast with Lee Byung-heon, Kim Tae-hee, Jung Jun-ho, Kim Seung-woo, Kim So-yeon, and TOP, and the 20 billion won poured into it, the large-scale production has not met expectations. Moreover, with the first episode logging more than 20%, it raised expectations to the utmost. It’s the opinion of the television industry that at this point, having aired six of twenty episodes, the drama should already have surpassed 30%. Compared with the solid No. 1 Queen Seon-deok, it’s more than 10% lower, a fact that has the faces of those involved cast in shadow.
Some broadcast sources assert that the ratings are an optical illusion. Compared to other television dramas, IRIS is available through various channels, which disperses the ratings. On the cable movie channel OCN, the week’s episodes of IRIS are shown on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a faster re-broadcast than in usual examples. The re-broadcast showed the racy kiss scene and bed scenes that weren’t aired on broadcast television. An OCN representative said, “We brought in the top ratings of 2%. It was the No. 1-rated program of the other cable television stations in the same timeslot.”
The effect of the legal online downloads can also be seen. IRIS has hit the jackpot, and as of November 1, it had recorded 800,000 downloads. Each episode costs 700 won (60 cents), meaning it has already earned 560 million won ($473,000). A broadcast source asserted, “IRIS doesn’t have the characteristics of a mania drama, so there are relatively few passionate viewers who must watch the episodes when they initially air.”
The analysis that IRIS is inherently limited from surpassing the 30% ratings mark has come from with KBS as well. Although IRIS is a large-scale spy-action series that is extremely rare for Korean dramas, with the drama actually focusing on the melodramatic storyline, it has met with its ratings limit. One KBS source pointed out, “It appears that Korean dramas are still limited in the spy-action area. If a spy-action drama were drawn more persuasively, it could see 30 to 40 percent ratings.”
The online/rerun argument isn’t really persuasive for me, because other dramas also have episodes available for rewatching on weekends and online in both streaming and downloadable forms (and both legally and illegally). IRIS does have the additional outlet of the cable channel, which other dramas typically do not, but that seems to me a small blip — not enough to explain the overall ratings scorecard.
At the end of the day, IRIS ain’t hurting, and I’m sure they’re not crying all the way to the bank. I find it interesting that the combined starpower and money and special effects couldn’t create more of a smash success or a pop-cultural sensation (Boys Before Flowers didn’t have much higher ratings, for example, but it stirred a positively overwhelming phenomenon in pop culture at large). But I guess money don’t buy you everything!
I don’t mean to say that IRIS doesn’t deserve its success, and I think it’s a very well-produced, well-acted, well-executed show. I do think, however, that it’s much more flash and glitz than heart — and when the story doesn’t quite ring true for me, it does hit a glass ceiling in my own mind, no matter how well-done the rest of its attributes are.
Via Hankook Ilbo
- Small dramas stay afloat amongst blockbusters
- IRIS: Episode 2
- Iris bed scene too hot for broadcast television
- IRIS: Episode 1
- Iris’s strong start endangers Heading’s ending
- Iris and Chuno run into production disputes
- Iris gets explosive
- And now for Iris’s Le Byung-heon
- A look at Iris’s supporting cast
- Iris’s profiler Kim Tae-hee