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‘Prison Break’ Social Buzz Zooms Above Rest of Broadcast TV Freshman Class

Is Fox’s revival of “Prison Break” poised to be a breakout hit?

The new iteration of the serial drama, which originally aired on Fox from 2005–09, has generated more than 10 times the user engagement on major social platforms since May than any other new broadcast show this TV season, according to a study by analytics firm ListenFirst Media. “Prison Break” also edged out every returning show on the fall broadcast schedule, with 19.5 million total engagements from May through the end of August.

That dwarfed the rest of the freshman class: NBC drama “This Is Us” took the No. 2 spot with 1.56 million engagements, followed by CBS’s reboot of “MacGyver” with 558,073, ABC’s family sitcom “Speechless” at 505,161, and Fox drama “Pitch” at 338,870.

Clearly, the built-in fanbase for “Prison Break” — even though it’s not set to premiere until the spring of 2017 — helped lift it above the rest of the pack. The event series, shot on location in Morocco, features original series stars Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell reuniting for what Fox promises will be the biggest escape ever. The original “Prison Break” centered on a man (Miller) determined to prove the innocence of his convicted brother (Purcell) and save him from death row with an elaborate scheme to bust him out of prison.

“The numbers show that ‘Prison Break’s’ return to air is met with fervor from fans who have been missing the show for years, while ‘This Is Us’ stands out as the original program that triples everyone else,” said Jason Klein, co-CEO and co-founder of ListenFirst Media.

There’s no guarantee that big social chatter will translate into big ratings. In fact, six of the top 10 most-buzzed-about shows heading into the fall 2015 season, as measured by ListenFirst, were ultimately canceled: NBC’s “Heroes Reborn,” ABC’s “The Muppets,” CBS’s “Limitless,” and Fox’s “Minority Report,” “Grandfathered,” and “The Grinder” each got the axe. The top two shows on social engagement were “Supergirl,” which is returning on CW, and Fox’s “Scream Queens.”

Meanwhile, the returning programs of ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW for 2016-17 far outpace the new entrants, with more than three times the social engagement across all networks on average per program. ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” entering its 27th season with host Alfonso Ribeiro, garnered nearly as many engagements (19.3 million) as “Prison Break.”

From a network perspective, Fox rules new programming, holding five spots in ListenFirst’s top 10 leader board. ABC leads on returning programs with more than 55 million social engagements from returning programs, and four spots on the top 10.

To rank the shows, ListenFirst analyzed fan growth, responses and conversation volume across Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+ from May 1 to Aug. 30. Notably, the data exclude Twitter data: That’s because Nielsen has an exclusive deal for publicly ranking TV programs based on Twitter data.

Top New Broadcast Programs for 2016-17

  1. Fox “Prison Break”: 19,495,934
  2. NBC “This Is Us”: 1,560,911
  3. CBS “MacGyver”: 558,073
  4. ABC “Speechless”: 505,161
  5. Fox “Pitch”: 338,870
  6. Fox “Son of Zorn”: 260,796
  7. Fox “Lethal Weapon”: 252,469
  8. ABC “Designated Survivor”: 240,726
  9. ABC “American Housewife”: 199,160
  10. Fox “24: Legacy”: 197,163

Top Returning Broadcast Programs for 2016-17

  1. ABC “America’s Funniest Home Videos”: 19,296,194
  2. NBC “America’s Got Talent”: 17,687,373
  3. Fox “Empire”: 10,441,249
  4. ABC: “Grey’s Anatomy”: 9,212,687
  5. ABC “Dancing With The Stars”: 8,845,100
  6. CW “The Flash”: 7,524,560
  7. NBC “The Voice”: 7,258,008
  8. ABC “Once Upon A Time”: 7,172,048
  9. Fox “Scream Queens”: 6,313,512
  10. CW “Supernatural”: 4,630,960

Source: ListenFirst Media

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