Why Grey’s Anatomy is still so popular

It’s the highest-rated show on TV in the important 18-49 age demographic. The current season averages more than 15 million viewers per episode across TV and digital platforms. Grey’s Anatomy is also the second most popular streaming show in the world, behind only The Office in minutes streamed (39 billion) on Netflix in 2020. Most critics cite Pompeo’s well-rounded lead character, a diverse cast, and a smart blend of soapy elements with romantic comedy. It also harnesses the traditional medical drama to create a dependably popular series in an age when many shows struggle to stay on the air more than a season or two.

Viewing habits have shifted toward online platforms, and media companies have followed suit with their investments, moving money from what used to go into broadcast and cable TV production into streaming. Even Rhimes, one of TV’s most coveted producers (thanks to her work on Grey’s Anatomy, among other shows), now makes shows exclusively for Netflix. The result is a streaming landscape overflowing with new content, while traditional TV networks struggle to replicate the success they had with shows like Grey’s Anatomy in the 1990s and 2000s. For ABC’s parent company, Disney, and for most other entertainment conglomerates, streaming is the priority moving forward.

So in the rare event a broadcast drama can remain successful for several years, executives are more than willing to ride it as long as that remains true. TV ratings for Grey’s Anatomy have plummeted since it launched in 2005, but relative to the rest of television, it’s still incredibly strong. Last year, it was tied with Fox’s 911 as the second highest-rated scripted show on TV, behind NBC’s This Is Us. The only other TV programs that were rated higher were reality shows and National Football League games.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.