'Surviving R. Kelly' Earns Strong Ratings for Lifetime

Surviving R. Kelly-Publicity Still 2-H 2019
Courtesy of Lifetime

Lifetime's Surviving R. Kelly docuseries drew big Nielsen ratings in addition to driving a ton of online conversation.

The three-night, six-hour series featuring multiple women who say they were sexually abused by the singer pulled in audiences far bigger the cable channel's usual viewership. It averaged 2.1 million viewers and a 0.9 rating among adults 18-49 in Nielsen's live plus same-day ratings.

Viewership also grew throughout Surviving R. Kelly's run. The first hour on Thursday drew 1.8 million viewers. By Saturday's second hour, the audience had grown to 2.29 million. The show's 18-49 rating also increased each night (though not each hour) from 0.84 on Thursday to 0.93 Friday to 0.94 Saturday.

Among Lifetime's core women demos, the series averaged just under 800,000 women 18-49 and more than 850,000 women 25-54, also multi-year highs.

Those demographic figures represent the best ratings for Lifetime in more than two years — and in more than three years for an unscripted show — and are more than three times the channel's usual performance. In 2018 Lifetime averaged a little under 700,000 viewers and a 0.2 rating in the 18-49 demo in primetime. 

Surviving R. Kelly also sparked lots of interest on social media — night one was the most-talked-about show on broadcast and cable, per Nielsen's social content ratings — and real-life conversations as well. "It's something that became larger than [a TV show] and sort of embedded itself into creating a national conversation," said Brie Miranda Bryant, Lifetime's senior vp original programming.