The premiere of Cruel Summer is Freeform’s most watched series debut ever, the cable network says — thanks to a huge boost from multi-platform viewing. In fact, the show’s first-week audience watched almost entirely after the on-air premiere of the 1990s-set drama.
The Disney-owned cabler says 3.81 million people watched the two-hour premiere in the seven days after its release. That’s a remarkable figure considering the on-air ratings for the April 20 premiere, which averaged just 246,000 viewers over the two hours. Delayed and cross-platform viewing (on Freeform’s website and app, Hulu and on demand) grew the audience to more than 15 times the size of the initial tune-in.
Put another way, the same-day linear audience for Cruel Summer‘s debut accounted for only 6.5 percent of its seven-day total.
Cruel Summer scored even bigger massive gains among adults 18-49 (123,000 same-day to 2.65 million after a week), growing by 21.5 times over the on-air debut. The premiere collected 1.33 million viewers in Freeform’s core demo of adults 18-34.
The previous high for a Freeform series premiere (dating to 2016, when the former ABC Family rebranded) was Shadowhunters in January 2016. It had about 3.7 million multi-platform viewers for its debut.
Cruel Summer is set over three consecutive years in the ’90s and chronicles the upheavals in the lives of a teenage girl (Chiara Aurelia) after she’s accused of having a connection to the disappearance of a popular classmate (Olivia Holt). Michael Landes, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Allius Barnes, Blake Lee and Brooklyn Sudano also star.
Entertainment One produces the series, which was created by Bert V. Royal. Tia Napolitano (Station 19, Scandal) serves as showrunner and executive produces with Royal, Jessica Biel and Michelle Purple.