It is obvious that fewer people will watch a TV show if it includes many sex scenes. Children will be disallowed to watch it, families with children that enjoy TV together will search for alternatives, conservative and/or religious people will avoid it, and for similar reasons, it may be banned or not broadcasted in entire countries.

On the other hand, I imagine very few people would not watch a TV show that they already enjoy if it were stripped of all its sex scenes. Take Game of Thrones or Spartacus, but delete all sex scenes. Will substantially fewer people watch them? I very much doubt it.

So, given that, why do these shows include that many sex scenes? Is my premise wrong (it does actually lead to increased viewership), or are there other reasons?


1 Answer 1


Here's a case study: True Blood ran on HBO from 2008–2014. The Vampire Diaries ran on CW from 2009–2017. Both series deal with vampires, romance, and the supernatural; in fact, The Vampire Diaries has been called "a PG-13 version of True Blood." True Blood, being on HBO, could (and did) feature graphic sexuality. The Vampire Diaries, being on a broadcast network, could not.

We therefore have two shows with similar subject matter that ran around the same time. Here are how these two shows did in the Nielsen ratings, according to their respective Wikipedia pages: enter image description here

The fact that True Blood consistently beat The Vampire Diaries over their runs is all the more impressive given that True Blood is on a premium cable network, and as such is only available in about 1/3 of US households. It seems pretty obvious that the show with a lot of sex scenes was much more popular than the one without.

Of course, it's true that one data point doesn't prove anything. There could be any number of reasons why one particular show does better than another (production values, better performances, marketing, etc.) I should also confess that I have never watched a minute of either of these shows, and the comparison may not be all that great. Still, this is probably the closest thing to a controlled experiment that we can get in the world of TV, and the conclusion seems to be pretty clear.

  • Eh, The CW always has a lower rating compared to other networks and TVD had the highest rating in the network for years and was a huge success, not just in the US, but world wide.
    – madmada
    Aug 15, 2017 at 23:02
  • Also TVD has more than 23 million likes at facebook, more than double True blood.
    – madmada
    Aug 15, 2017 at 23:04
  • One also has to consider pirating and although they share the same subject matter, True Blood, borrowing the tone from the books on which it is based, is very campy, sociopolitically incorrect, and extremely gratuitous. There are times when TB's sex scenes are insane for their own sake (Bill and Lorena) and are not exactly fundamental to the plot, but rather the nature of the tone of the story. My opinion is that TB did take it too far and it did harm it at times, but there are other factors that lead to season declines and fan upsets Nov 1, 2017 at 0:36

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