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‘The Royals’ Helps E! Reign and Grow in Target Demos

E!’s first foray into scripted drama series with “The Royals” has paid off, scoring with the cabler’s core audience of young women.

“Royals” opened to an average of 2.19 million viewers on March 15 in live-plus-three ratings. The dramedy has held steady through the first seven episodes, pulling in nearly 2 million overall viewers each week, and about 1 million in the 18-49 demo. In the past few weeks, the series has seen a constant uptick in 18-34.

“We couldn’t be more happy with how it’s performing,” Adam Stotsky, president of Esquire Network and general manager of E! Entertainment, told Variety. “The typical trajectory is these scripted shows launch really big and then they drop down to find their floor where they continue to exist. We started strong and it’s continued in that same general vicinity.”

The season’s penultimate episode on April 19 drew 1.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen Live+3 estimates. It ranked No. 4 for the week among scripted basic cable originals in adults 18-34 — a significant win for the cabler given that “Royals” is new territory for E! Among new basic cable scripted series introduced this year, “Royals” ranks second to AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul.”

The sudser stars Elizabeth Hurley as a fictional British monarch who reigns over a large, unruly family. Stotsky points out the show has traction online as well. The Lionsgate TV series was renewed for a second season some two months before its premiere.

“Above and beyond the ratings strength, we’ve got a large fanbase of incredibly social, young women week-to-week. For this audience, women 18-34 in particular, this show really hit the zeitgeist,” he said. alluding to fans “shipping” characters on social media. “It’s really encouraging when you see that kind of feedback — fan-created Tumblrs popping up every week.”

The Royals” has cultivated a musical following for its soundtrack, placing as one of the top-tracked TV shows on Shazam, among musical series like “Empire,” “The Voice” and “American Idol,” according to the song-identifying app.

“Royals,” along with an uptick for “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and the sophomore season of plastic surgery show “Botched,” has helped E!’s year-on-year primetime growth with a high-momentum this April, up almost 30% from last year.

“We’ve got a very specific, but big audience, that we’re targeting,” Stotsky says. “Entertainment, pop culture, the whole sort of celebrity world is of great interest and of great passion to our audience. That subject matter is incredibly wide-ranging and allows us to tell lots of stories like what’s unfolding in the world of the Kardashians on a daily basis. Now, having the opportunity to tell that story through a scripted lens is really quite liberating and quite exciting.”

Stotsky explains that “The Royals” is in line with what E! viewers already crave: glitz, glam, gossip and drama.

He says the network plans to include more scripted series, but won’t shy away from unscripted projects and red carpet coverage. Along with Bruce Jenner’s summer docu-series, which will follow his transgender transition, the net recently picked up two new reality projects, “WAGS” and “Stewarts & Hamiltons,” plus another series exec produced by the Kardashian/Jenner clan, “Dash Dolls.”

Now that the network is set up for more scripted projects, Stotsky assures Variety that while the cabler will want to explore different areas, the core attributes of the “E! experience” will remain the same.

“It’s about finding stories that will engage and excite our audience, and in a way that complements what they’re already excited about, whether it’s on the red carpet, in the studio, in the hills of Calabasas or, now, in scripted,” he says. “That’s what our audience expects from us and that’s the world we celebrate.”

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