×

Ryan Murphy on ‘Scream Queens’ Ratings Bump: Overnights Aren’t Everything

Wednesday morning brought surprising news for Fox execs and the “Scream Queens” creative team: After a premiere night that saw a flurry of social activity on Twitter and other platforms, the overnight ratings for the new horror/comedy series were a bit of a disappointment, bringing in 4 million viewers overall.

That all changed Sunday morning, when the live-plus-three-day (L3) ratings were released, giving the show an 80% lift, to a new total of 7.3 million across all platforms, including Fox Now and Hulu. What’s more, the median age of the show dropped from 52 to 36.

Now they’re celebrating a success story that hopes to change the way we talk about ratings.

“The story of the fall is just how much people are time-shifting and watching programming in new and much more dramatic ways than even six months ago,” says executive producer Ryan Murphy.

He admits he was “confused” on Wednesday morning, but says he’s had a huge learning curve as the week went on and viewing numbers started to come on from digital platforms. Nielsen’s overnights are only telling half the story, he says. “It’s like reporting on a football game after the first quarter,” he says.

And it’s particularly true for a show that’s targeting a younger demo, like “Scream Queens.” “A lot of younger viewers look at viewing live like they look at MySpace,” he says. “It’s uncool. They’re not going to do it.”

Murphy reports he asked the show’s cast how they watch TV. “Not a single one between 18 and 28 even own a TV,” he says. “They want to watch how they want to watch when they want to watch it.”

He compares it to what he’s learned from “American Horror Story,” which has seen exponential growth in viewers over the course of its four seasons. “Anything that is horror, the viewing audience is biggest on the weekends, because young women want to watch it during the day with the lights on,” he says.

And he has the full support of his bosses, Fox’s chairman and CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman. “Different kinds of viewers watch TV in different kinds of ways,” he says. “If you’re going to be a broadcast platform you’ve got to understand that. They’re excited in a weird way that their shows could be a model for how we’re judging contemporary broadcast and cable viewership.”

Walden readily agrees. “We knew in our hearts it would be the number one show among 18-34,” she says. “It’s very gratifying not even having the whole picture yet,” adding that she expects the L7 numbers to climb into the double digits.

While she says it’s tempting to jump on live/same day numbers, “It’s no longer the way we can look at our business,” she says. “This is the watercooler show. We knew once we had greater measurements to look at, it would be told in an accurate way. Being a trailblazer is hard.”

Fox execs say they’ll wait to look at the full ratings picture before making any decisions about renewing the show.

Of course, Murphy hopes all this buzz fuels more interest in what’s to come on “Scream Queens.” He’s planned three Halloween-themed episodes, which have traditionally delivered upticks for “American Horror Story,” and the show will now premiere behind the network’s new comedies “Grandfathered” (starring John Stamos) and “The Grinder” (with Rob Lowe).

“I’m optimistic about the month of October,” he says.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Judith Light'Transparent' TV show Musical Finale,

    'Transparent' Team Talks 'Transformative Energy' of Trans Community

    As Amazon Prime Video prepares to send off “Transparent” with a musical finale movie on Sept. 27, the cast and creative team behind the show are hoping the impact of a character such as Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) will not be overshadowed by the controversy that the actor who portrayed Maura caused. “I believe that [...]

  • Cherry Jones

    Cherry Jones Wins 2019 Guest Drama Actress Emmy

    Cherry Jones won the 2019 guest drama actress Emmy for her work as the titular character’s mother, Holly Osborne, in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This was Jones’ second consecutive nomination for the role but first win. Interestingly, both noms were for her work in the second season of the dystopian streaming series. After a few [...]

  • Jane Lynch, Cyndi Lauper Developing 'Golden

    Jane Lynch, Cyndi Lauper Developing 'Golden Girls'-Style Comedy for Netflix

    Jane Lynch and Cyndi Lauper just wanna have fun. The comedian and the 1980s music icon have joined forces to star in a new comedy project that may be heading to Netflix. Lynch let it slip backstage at the Creative Arts Emmys that she and Lauper will co-star in a comedy that she described as [...]

  • Luke Kirby71st Annual Primetime Creative Arts

    Luke Kirby Wins 2019 Guest Comedy Actor Emmy

    Luke Kirby has been crowned the winner of the 2019 guest comedy actor Emmy for his role as the real-life comic Lenny Bruce on Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” This was Kirby’s first-ever Emmy attention. He was nominated against a slew of “Saturday Night Live” players (Robert De Niro, John Mulaney and Adam [...]

  • Bradley Whitford photographed at the PMC

    Bradley Whitford Wins 2019 Guest Drama Actor Emmy

    Bradley Whitford won the 2019 guest drama actor Emmy for his role of Commander Joseph Lawrence on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Whitford joined the cast of the streaming dystopian series at the end of its second season, in episodes that were released after the close of the 2018 Emmy eligibility window. The Television Academy agreed [...]

  • TV Review: 'Transparent' Series Finale

    TV Review: 'Transparent' Series Finale

    Amazon’s “Transparent” will have a chapter, or a section of one, in some to-be-written history of television, in part thanks to how brazen and how daring its ideas were for its moment. Some of those were ideas that came to seem simply logical in retrospect: The show was a pathbreaker for trans representation onscreen, casting [...]

  • Jane Lynch NBC Relatively Happy

    Jane Lynch Wins 2019 Guest Comedy Actress Emmy

    Jane Lynch has been crowned the winner of the 2019 guest comedy actress Emmy for her role of comic Sophie Lennon on Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” This was Lynch’s second consecutive nomination for the role but first win. However, it is her fifth Emmy overall, after winning a short form statue in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content