Why 'Scream Queens' Crazy Ratings Increase Proves You Can't Judge A Show's Popularity By Its Immediate Numbers

Having been almost instantly invested in the show, when I read about the mediocre Scream Queens ratings, I'll admit I was just a little bit worried. As a fan, I really want one of my new potential favorite series to fair well in the ratings. Why? It's not because a financial investment at stake like the producers and network powers that be — I am this crazy for free. It's because I like the show and want it to continue on, and if no one's watching it, it's going to live an unfortunately short life. I want Scream Queens to grow old and grey with me. Thankfully, I shouldn't fear; according to Variety, Scream Queens ' ratings got a huge bump from streaming services, and that the initial ratings weren't a fair gauge of the show's true popularity.

Reported Variety,

"The new horror comedy from Ryan Murphy added more than 2 million total viewers, rising from 4.04 million to 6.24 million. Scream Queens also added about 1 million viewers via streaming on Fox Now and Hulu, the largest-ever lift for a Fox premiere (ahead of even Empire) in this window, to bring its three-day viewership to about 7.3 million."

*Wipes sweat off brow.* It looks like I have nothing to worry about, especially because showrunner Ryan Murphy made explicit note of this happy change. He tweeted to his followers,

Scream Queens fans, it looks like we're safe. More than the relief that comes with this sort of obvious realization, the ratings confusion with this show is symptomatic of a bigger problem. Before the premiere, the buzz for this show was tangible. Entertainment Weekly noted that the show was initially doing extremely well popularity-wise before the pilot, and Scream Queens came in at number one for both ET Online and E! Online's fall TV show rankings. And then, once it premiered, it received critical acclaim (and plenty of Twitter love). Clearly, the audience's love for the show is not just an abstract concept, but a measurable fact. Everyone has been talking about it and was talking about it during the entire night of the premiere.

So, why didn't that Twitter popularity translate to watching numbers? Well, from a personal standpoint, I realized in hindsight that despite watching the show nearly on time, I had actually recorded it. Hunger wins out sometimes, guys, and a burrito bowl took precedence over watching the show truly live. Now, think about how many other burrito bowl-hungry watchers there were who were tweeting their excitement over the show, and did actually tune in, just not at the time that was designated by the network schedule. Think about 2.2 million guac lovers, in fact, according to Variety's report.

In addition to the delayed viewing, this response to Murphy's tweet gives credence to another millennial phenomenon — not having cable, and watching TV through other methods.

Business Insider agrees with that statement, and points to a bigger trend. In an August 2015 article, the magazine said,

"But with the rise of independent content providers like Netflix and Hulu, customers are able to get content at a much lower price. And now cable TV is now losing subscribers as millennials are moving away from traditional TV quicker than ever."

Scream Queens is, as Variety notes, "Tuesday's youngest skewing broadcast," meaning that the millennial deviation from television consumption norm matters to shows such as this one. The fans are there, and they are watching, and they are engaged — it's just not in the traditional way. So, before you count a show out, demand a recount. Wait awhile, and let the overall numbers decide whether or not a show actually prevailed or flailed. Because, chances are, a significant amount of viewers will see the show, and care about its future — they're just out getting burrito bowls or watching on their laptops when the series premieres on TV.

Image: Fox