'Twin Peaks' Ratings: Is The 2017 Return In Trouble? One Number Tells The Whole Story

Twin Peaks, the groundbreaking David Lynch TV series, is finally back in our lives after 27 years of anticipation, and judging by the reactions on social media and from TV critics, it might feel as if everyone's watching it. In reality, though, the 2017 return of Twin Peaks is facing some problems when it comes to the show's traditional ratings. While at the same time, it's breaking new ground with the new ways of watching TV - streaming.

Episodes 1 and 2 of Twin Peaks Season 3 debuted on Showtime last week, on May 21. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the two-hour Twin Peaks premiere attracted only 619,000 viewers in real time. When comparing the numbers to other popular Showtime shows, it would seem Agent Dale Cooper is in trouble.

  • Billions, Season 2: The two-hour premiere drew 753,000 viewers.
  • Homeland, Season 6: The season premiere attracted 1.1 million viewers.
  • Ray Donovan, Season 4: The season premiere had 1.1 million viewers.
When you compare Twin Peaks' 2017 premiere to some of the shows that were on the same time slot that night on other channels, David Lynch's series loses again. On HBO, an episode of The Leftovers Season 3 attracted 770,000 viewers, and American Gods on Stars drew 631,000 viewers.

If you compare Twin Peaks to itself - from 27 years ago - the numbers look even more devastating. The first ever episode of the show, which premiered in April 1990, had 34.6 million viewers. But the TV landscape was very different back then. The show was broadcast on the ABC network, and there were a lot fewer TV channels around, not to mention no streaming options such as Netflix.

David Lynch (L) and Kyle MacLachlan attend the premiere of Showtime's 'Twin Peaks' at The Theatre at Ace Hotel
David Lynch and Kyle MacLachlan [Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]

However, it's not all doom and gloom for David Lynch and Agent Cooper, and in fact, Twin Peaks managed to break a ratings record for Showtime - the streaming ratings. Showtime is available as a streaming subscription in several ways - directly through its own website and as an add-on subscription to Hulu and Amazon Prime to name a few.

And as it turns out, more Twin Peaks viewers chose to watch the show via a streaming service than live on TV. As of last Friday, the season premiere's total ratings jumped up to 1.7 million viewers - that means more than a million viewers tuned in to watch the show after its "live" premiere via one of the streaming services.

According to Showtime, that number represents the most streaming viewers ever for an original series debut and the highest percentage of streaming viewership of any Showtime original series to date. The cable network also announced a record number of subscriptions to their streaming service ahead of the Twin Peaks 2017 revival. Showtime Networks president and CEO, David Nevins, addressed that in a statement.

"In the world that we live in now, offering original programming that attracts new subscribers is our primary business objective. By that standard, the Twin Peaks premiere is the biggest single-night driver we've ever had."
In a nod to its streaming audience, Showtime even released Episodes 3 and 4 of Twin Peaks to its streaming service ahead of their broadcast on the regular channel. The episodes were available to watch immediately following Episodes 1 and 2, and while their viewing numbers haven't been released yet, it's safe to assume they will be high, and very possibly higher, again, than the episodes' ratings on the live channel, where they were shown yesterday (May 28).
The 2017 return of Twin Peaks was a major success on another new media platform - social media. While not necessarily an indication of TV viewership, the show's return sparked millions of tweets, memes, and conversations on Twitter and other social media channels - something TV executives monitor closely in this day and age.

The third (and presumably final) season of Twin Peaks consists of 18 episodes, which from now on will be released weekly on Showtime's streaming service, at the same as their traditional TV broadcast. It will be interesting to see whether this new form of viewing and the delayed ratings numbers it brings will be enough for the executives in the TV industry. It would seem Twin Peaks is breaking new TV ground again, this time by bringing delayed viewers and TV cord cutters into the spotlight.

[Featured Image by Showtime]