Orphan Black's Ratings Actually Weren't As Bad As Advertised

Sci fi dramas often have it tough in the ratings, especially if they don’t benefit from being on network TV or the channel Syfy. So, when Orphan Black hit BBC America’s schedule a little over a week ago, I don’t think anyone was expecting ratings greatness. However, I do think fans were a little bit disappointed by the paltry numbers for the show’s opening episode. The good news is that Orphan Black actually did pretty well in the ratings once you factor in the horde of people watching the series via DVR.

When Orphan Black’s premiere ratings came in, only 620,000 viewers sat in front of their TVs on Saturday night to watch the critically acclaimed show launch its new season. Like a fine wine, those numbers have become more impressive with age. Recently, BBC America released the three-day figures for the Season 2 opener, noting that the show was able to nearly double its ratings with a few extra days. Additionally, the show increased by a whopping 91% in the coveted 18-49 demographic, which is a pretty impressive feat.

Saturday night is a tough slot for any series, but especially a series that is trying to garner interest from younger viewers, who still spend plenty of time out and about. Clearly it seems that audiences are digging the clone-oriented drama, just maybe not while they are out to dinner or bar hopping. BBC America seems to want to own Saturday nights, but maybe if the show switched to a more reasonable TV-viewing night, it could do better during its live airing.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that Orphan Black happens to be BBC America’s second-highest ranked program, following the network’s airings of the program Doctor Who. Last year, the series had the British import as a lead-in, which made it much easier to garner ratings. Sure, the Season 1 premiere of Orphan Black did do better than this year’s by a margin of about 50,000 viewers, but without the popular lead-in, it’s nice to see the female-powered drama still manage to pack a ratings punch.

At some point, BBC America is going to come to a fork in the road, and executives will need to decide whether they’re fine with the program achieving very impressive DVR numbers and whether they will want to move it to a more competitive timeslot to see if more live eyeballs can be found. For a cable network, there’s not just one game in play. Sure, advertisers might be the most obvious way money is generated, and advertisers greatly prefer when audiences watch something live and can’t fast forward, but beyond that, it’s also important for a network like BBC America to have certified hits so they can demand more money per user from cable companies. So, very good DVR numbers are more profitable (long-term) than you would think.

Regardless, Orphan Black almost certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and that’s a huge victory for the fans.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.