C-drama viewership ratings explained

Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms Dilraba Dilmurat
As an avid drama fan, I have seen enough to know that TV ratings don't always tell the whole story. Depending on what viewers like, good shows can tank horribly while bad shows can get a free pass. Nevertheless, I still find it a lot of fun to track ratings especially when your favorite show happens to be doing well.  Competition is cutthroat because of the number of channels in China. Apart from government-owned channels by CCTV, there are a number of private broadcast networks like Hunan TV, Dragon TV, Beijing TV, Zhejiang TV, Jiangsu TV, Anhui TV and Shandong TV that air nationwide. There are also countless channels that air provincially. These TV stations can choose to air new shows or reruns. 

CSM Media Research is the largest ratings agency (approx 85%) in China followed by AC Nielsen which occupies a smaller portion of the market (approx 10%). CSM does different kinds of tabulations like CSMNationwide, CSM52 Cities, etc. 

Take Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms for example, which was a daily drama that aired on primetime (7:30 pm). Given the show's popularity, I think it's safe to say that it had a pretty good run. It was a show that aired on two channels simultaneously, earning a series high of 1.910% on Dragon TV and 1.518% on Zhejiang TV (see link).

Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms Episode Ratings on Dragon TV
DateEpisodeCSM52 Ratings (%)CSM52 Audience Share (%)Ranking

CSM Rating is the percentage of viewers watching the show against the total population in the region. It is time sensitive just because primetime tends to generate higher numbers than say, a show airing in the middle of the night. It doesn't make the most sense to use CSM Ratings to compare shows from different timeslots even though it's often done for ranking purposes. 

Princess Agents

Clearing the first hurdle of 1.0% is always a good sign, and anything higher like 2.0%, 3.0% and so on become causes for celebration. Princess Agents managed to reach 2.525% (see link) which is impressive considering that it's not a primetime show (it airs at 10pm) nor is it a daily drama (airs every Monday - Thursday) though it still failed to beat Journey of Flower in its heyday two years ago.

Even so, the real undisputed winner for the year (and the years before that) is the political drama In the Name of People which averaged 3.626% and hit a series high of 6.695% (see link). This is where the pull of primetime becomes evident because it shows just how powerful the timeslot and network can be. Hunan TV is generally a channel that attracts high viewership. 

In the Name of People c-drama MOVEE
On the other hand, CSM Audience Share is the percentage of viewers watching a particular show against the numbers of viewers watching TV on the same timeslot. TMOPB hit a high of 5.542% in terms of audience share, which is like having 5% of the whole pie with the remaining 95% split among other shows. It's a good gauge for competitiveness because it reveals just how well a show has done against its peers.

Just a disclaimer that the above are merely from the perspective of a fan. If you have anything to add, please definitely share it in the comments section below. 

Source: 1, 2


  1. Thanks! Surprised Princess Agents did even better than Three Lives. Maybe because it aired in the summer.

  2. This is really interesting. Thanks for taking the time to explain.

  3. Journey of Flower aired at 7pm, if I remember correctly. Also, the impressive thing about PA's ratings is that it is a weekly drama. That means it doesn't air every day. Viewers have to catch a couple episodes each week. This format tends to deliver lower ratings than daily dramas.

    I wanted to add that CSM has different ways of measuring ratings. CSM52 would be the standard, which measures cities. Then they have CSM national average, which looks at a different set of sample household this time both in cities and rural areas. For some reason, Nielsen ratings are not taken as seriously to measure success.

    1. Also wasn't Princess Agents airing in the later slot (I think it's 10:00-00:00) too which usually doesn't get the highest ratings?

    2. yes, PA is impressive for the reasons you guys stated (i should include the part about PA not airing everyday to the post, thanks for bringing it up).

      I didn't watch JoF when it was on Hunan but it's listed as having a similar timeslot which is 10pm. That's why even though PA did really well, there is still some disappointment that it didn't beat JoF.

    3. I went back and took a look at JoF and you are right, it also aired at 10 pm Tuesdays-Wednesday so even less episodes per week. I afraid I got it confused with its rerun on CCTV which had an earlier time-slot.

      I am glad PA didn't beat JoF, I just feel like JoF was more of a classic #sobiased :P