TV’s measure for success becomes more difficult to define each year — and no series may better exemplify that quandary in 2017 than Twin Peaks.
Showtime’s expensive, 18-episode revival of David Lynch’s ‘90s cult drama enthralled most critics, confused fans and, on the average Sunday night, rarely drew more than 300,000 live viewers. But even with its paltry linear returns, the series is being chalked up as a win at the cable network — at least according to Showtime Networks CEO and president David Nevins.
“When you see the Sunday night numbers, for most of our shows that would represent 20 percent of the weekly viewership,” Nevins told The Hollywood Reporter in August. “With Twin Peaks, it’s closer to 10 percent of the total viewing.”
Heading into the Sept. 3 finale of Twin Peaks, the series was pulling a weekly average of 2 million viewers once time-shifting, encores and streaming plays were tallied. And while that’s a more handsome figure than its Sunday numbers, it’s still a fraction of the audience that Showtime’s top tier originals earn. Ray Donovan, which returned to Sundays and joined Twin Peaks on Aug. 6, wooed 4.3 million viewers to its premiere (1.1 million of them during the first-run telecast).
“Ray Donovan, Shameless, Homeland, The Affair and Billions all act in a similar way [with viewers],” said Nevins, speaking of his five most-watched series — each the kind of show that can still lure what few channel surfers remain in this TV ecosystem. “They’re not that different. You notice certain patterns in how they perform.”
From a financial perspective, Nevins says Twin Peaks has exceeded expectations. Its May premiere week drove the greatest number of free trial sign-ups for Showtime’s over-the-top streaming service since it launched in 2015. And while those numbers aren’t ones that the CBS Corp.-owned network will divulge, Nevins emphasized the number has held “remarkably steady.” In short, most of the people who signed up for that record number of trials have paid to keep Showtime the subsequent three months.
The hope for Showtime, on top of continuing to retain those new subscribers now that the series is over, is that Twin Peaks will now find a larger audience as it lives on the growing digital platforms.
“It’s really unique, so I had very little sense of what to expect,” adds Nevins. “In the bifurcated world that I live in, it’s interesting to experiment.”