TV Long View: The Continued Rise of 'Schitt's Creek'

Awards recognition and a healthy streaming audience have helped Pop's cult hit substantially increase its audience for the show's final season.
Courtesy of PopTV

Something happened to cult comedy Schitt's Creek as it began airing its final season on Pop TV.

Its ratings blew up.

Granted, it's a small explosion, one befitting the name of the cable channel where it airs in the United States. But the show's healthy streaming audience, Pop's continued prioritizing of the series in marketing, and awards recognition over the past six months have combined to make Schitt's Creek a rare commodity in the current landscape: a veteran scripted show continuing to grow its audience.

Over its first three episodes of season six, Schitt's Creek has averaged 358,000 viewers for its initial airing. The first two have grown from an average of 379,500 to 762,000 with three days of delayed viewing — doubling the first tune-in.

Pop president Brad Schwartz told The Hollywood Reporter that the series has grown every season in seven-day ratings, but "the jump from [season] five to six has been the biggest jump of any season."

Extended delayed-viewing numbers put the show above 1 million viewers per episode, said Schwartz, and he said 50,000 to 100,000 people per episode watch on Pop's app. It's also at or near the top of the rankings for electronic sellers like Amazon, Google Play and Apple Music, he notes.

The series earned four Emmy nominations, including one for best comedy series, last fall, and has racked up noms for the Critics' Choice Awards, the SAG Awards and the PGA Awards. Schwartz said Schitt's Creek has also remained Pop's top marketing priority season to season, which has helped keep the show on people's radars, and the awards recognition has also resulted in more media coverage.

"I compare it a lot to compounded interest," he said. "As it keeps growing, it keeps getting bigger and bigger as more people talk about it."

Prior seasons of Schitt's Creek stream on Netflix, and the full run is also available via cable on-demand systems (rather than just the most recent season). Schwartz believes some viewers who have caught up to the current episodes have now migrated to Pop to watch the final season week by week.

"There's now this sense of spoilers," he said. "Because of the nature of the show, people have to be asking, does Gilligan get off the island? They're going to want to watch that now, week to week, because you don't want to hear about it. I feel like there's a little bit more stakes and immediacy to this final season."

The audience for Schitt's Creek is by no means huge. Its three-day viewer tally of 790,000 for the Jan. 14 episode ranked 14th among 22 cable scripted series that week, between BBC America's Doctor Who (808,000 after three days) and Freeform's Grown-ish (752,000).

But in Pop's world, where it's been the channel's biggest show from its outset, approaching and passing 1 million viewers is a very big deal.

"This show has meant so much to people who watch it and has done so much for what people think they can expect from Pop," said Schwartz. "We compare it when Mad Men was on AMC. AMC was a classic movie channel. Mad Men changed the perception of the network, and it gave audiences the expectation that this was a brand that does great stuff. … I think we are having that moment as a network, we're having that pivot."

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