The SBS drama "Penthouse: War in Life" wrapped up the final episode of its first season with a viewership of 28.8 percent nationwide and 30.5 percent in the Seoul metropolitan area, according to Nielsen Korea. Its highest rating ― for the 21st episode ― was 31.1 percent, according to the show runners. The TV series' 20th episode scored a 23.8 percent viewership nationwide, a 5 percent rise from previous figures.
Reaching such a high viewership rating is a rarity among TV dramas that have aired on a national TV station in recent years, and thus some consider it a sign of a resurgence of the popularity of TV series from terrestrial broadcasters. Cable networks, such as JTBC and tvN, have dominated in the TV series ratings battle.
"Penthouse: War in Life," directed by Joo Dong-min and written by Kim Soon-ok and broadcast Mondays and Tuesdays, depicts the desires and vanity of a group of insatiable super-rich people living in a luxury high-rise apartment, Hera Palace, with their spoiled children attending Cheong-ah Arts School, a prestigious private high school. Earlier, Kim said, "I wanted to show the endless desire of human beings who make unending efforts to ascend to the highest position on the social ladder while remaining ignorant of their social responsibilities, justice and conscience."
However, due to violent scenes that appeared in its second episode aired Oct. 27, SBS received a warning and the Korea Communications Standards Commission, the censorship body for TV broadcasting, raised the viewer restriction to '19' a rating reserved for content that depicts adult themes such as sexual situations, strong language and scenes of violence.
The popularity of the series is likely due in part to the fierce competition between national TV networks ― SBS, KBS and MBC ― and cable channels ― tvN and JTBC ― to come up with shows that can draw viewers' attention amid a lower viewership of network channels' productions compared to those aired and made by the cable channels over the last few years.
Series broadcast by national networks, which once enjoyed more than a 60 percent viewership for some in the 1990s and 2000s, started losing popularity amid the diversification of media content and platforms centered on online streaming and cable television services.
Many mega-hit dramas have been broadcast by JTBC and CJ ENM's tvN in recent years including JTBC's "Itaewon Class" (2020), an adaptation of a Daum web comic with the same title; "The World of the Married" (2020), an adaptation of the BBC's "Doctor Foster"; and tvN's "Crash Landing on You" (2019-2020), "Guardian: The Lonely and Great God" (2016-2017) and "Reply 1988" (2015-2016).
source: The Korea Times