As networks around the US continue to watch ratings fall, it seems A&E is bucking the trend – mostly thanks to one reality show hit.

A&E has seen nine successive quarters of growth over the same period the previous year in the 25-to-54 age group, courtesy of what has turned into one of TV’s most successful franchises: Live PD.

The programme, which follows police officers live around the country for three hours every Friday and Saturday, didn't start off as a trailblazing hit when it first aired in 2016, however.

“It took a while for people to find it,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, EVP and head of programming, A&E. The network expanded the output from Fridays to Saturdays, which “made a lot of sense for the action in the field, but also just the white space for our network. We were just doing repeats those nights,” she added.

Three years on, the show is such a hit that A&E has created three separate spin-offs, each becoming a top-rated show for the network in the year it aired.

“They’ve essentially struck gold there, especially given the way people consume live TV now,” Nick Hartofilis, EVP, national video investment, at Zenith, told AdWeek.

“The fact that they now have viewers keeping the channel on A&E for that show and they spin off other low-commitment types of comfort food TV, it’s definitely a good formula.”

The live element of the show and the fact that pretty much anything is possible might prove a magnet for many viewers, but at the same time it puts off the more cautious brands.

Other brands, however, find the show as irresistible as the viewers – 175 unique advertisers featured on the programme in the second quarter, and ad revenue per hour has grown 130% since it launched.

“Brands recognize the value this series provides,” said Peter Olsen, EVP, ad sales, A+E Networks. “In today’s cross-platform landscape, there are few shows that engage a more passionate and loyal fan base – akin to the fervour held by sports fans – and immensely consistent and predictable ratings success.”

And sport is the one thing that can knock Live PD off its pedestal: last Friday the show found itself losing out on top spot in the cables’ ratings to TBS’ broadcast of the Nationals-Dodgers game.

Sourced from Ad Week, TV By The Numbers; additional content by WARC staff