Who here watched the Riverdale Season 2 premiere? If so, you're not alone. The show's first episode of the Fall 2017 season brought in an astounding 2.3 million same-day viewers, which is more than double the numbers of the Season 1 finale last May, and a whopping two-third rise since the original premiere back in March. The Riverdale Season 2 premiere ratings were so big, the ratings among women ages 25-40 jumped 140 percent and in the 13-24 crowd, it jumped (wait for it)... 467 percent.
Now that I've thrown all those numbers at you, here's what that means. That is the best teenage ratings for any show on The CW since The Vampire Diaries peaked in 2012. In a time when teenagers and 20-somethings are choosing to turn away from traditional methods of TV watching, favoring streaming services and YouTube, this kind of growth for a broadcast network show is straight-up astronomical.
How did they do it? Well, by using streaming services, actually. In the summer of 2016, The CW signed an agreement with Netflix that, going forward, their shows would immediately turn up on the streaming service eight days after the season finale, starting with shows that aired in Fall of 2016.
At the time, most saw this as a boon to shows that were already on the air, like The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl. As audiences slowly eroded away from watching those shows live on broadcast, The CW could keep them in the fold by making the new seasons instantly binge-able when it was over.
But in reality, the show that seems to have benefitted the most was the one that producers were nervous enough about that they held it until Spring of 2017, and then only put in a 13 episode order for.
Coincidentally, thirteen episodes is the normal length of a Netflix produced original series, making the acquisition, which arrived just as summer break did, the right length for most binge-watching teens looking for something to do during the days home from school.
Personally, I had friends this summer who held Riverdale binge-watching parties, introducing their friends to the sheer insanity of the series, and hoping to indoctrinate them into their newest favorite soap. You can't do that if the show doesn't turn up on streaming until only a week or two before the new season airs, if that.
The CW also helped the numbers along by moving Riverdale (which originally aired in the super competitive Thursday night slot) back a day, to Wednesdays at 8 p.m., where there isn't that much competition. (And where it could act as a lead-in for the not-nearly-as-good Dynasty.)
This is not the first time a show has seen a "Netflix bounce" from being added to the streaming service. One of the most famous examples is the critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad, which never really took off in viewer numbers until the final season. That final season began four months after the first four years turned up Netflix. Everyone binged to see what the fuss was about, and got hooked.
But that was a cable channel, not an over-the-air broadcast network. This is the first time that we've seen an old school network figure out how to use the modern-day streaming service to their own advantage. Most other networks, like NBC, ABC, and CBS, see Netflix as direct competition for viewers, and are extremely wary about putting their shows up for streaming on it. Heck, CBS decided to launch their own streaming service that they are now fighting to get viewers to sign up, using Star Trek: Discovery.
Perhaps seeing The CW's staggering success in using the Netflix model to reel in audiences between seasons will catch the attention of network honchos. It might even lead to more shows becoming available faster on major distributors like Netflix. We can all hope so, anyway.