Not So Desperate Wives


We hear a lot about the doomsday preppers, the fishermen, and the pawn business, but this month CableU decided it was time to dig deeper on another genre…wives. It might not be the hottest genre out there (sorry, ladies of your respective niches), but it is a thriving category with a rich history, evolving from the innocence of June Cleaver to the reality of Kate Gosselin.

In May alone two new WIFE shows debuted, and by our count five of our analyzed networks ran ten original primetime programs that centered on wives. On three of those networks WIFE programming was the best-rated program of the month (based on households and women 18-49). There were 33 new episodes and 56 encores; over eighty hours of original wifey programming in all.


Most of the programs feature groups of wives and their unique, outrageous and cable-worthy lifestyles. Each has a theme that bonds the wives together – whether it be location (Orange County or New Jersey), lifestyle choice (polygamy), or their husbands’ career (The US Army, The NBA or the mob).

Three of the programs focused on just one wife with a personality strong enough to carry a whole program on her shoulders, and of those, two are sequels (Bethenny and La La televised their weddings as well as their married lives). Single-wife programs tend to be shorter-lived. Only one show, ARMY WIVES, is a scripted drama; the rest fall into the docu-reality genre.


In the category, there was one season premiere, two series debuts, and three season finales in the group in May. The median “age” of the WIVES was three seasons old. Two of the more mature programs were also the highest rated.


The majority (six) of the programs air on Sunday nights, perhaps not-so-coincidentally the home of the DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, who said their good-byes this May. Three of the programs air on Mondays and just one runs on Tuesdays.


The female composition for all of these programs is strikingly similar. Each of them is very close to an 80/20 female/male skew. The exception is the two MOB WIVES, which come in closer to a 70% female skew.

Every program in the category delivers better ratings than its respective network’s average primetime rating. ARMY WIVES and OC are the best rated among women 18-49 for total program average. When we take out the encore runs and look at premiere episode performance, NJ and BASKETBALL WIVES come out on top. MRS. EASTWOOD barely tops the E! primetime average for total program, but comes out 140% ahead when only premiere telecasts are factored in.

Of course multiple runs dilute the numbers, but the higher rated programs can hold up to multiple runs – Bravo is a pro at this, scheduling 19 NJ encores and six for OC over the course of the month. VH1 and TLC also favor the encore strategy, running about six encores.


Is this a viable category? Only if you are a female-skewing network looking for a high-rated program with a long shelf life that can hold up to repeats.

Is there more room for more wives? The Browns of SISTER WIVES certainly think so, and so do we. Find a strong personality or three and a unifying theme and you are on your way.