The media world was taken by surprise last week when the Roseanne reboot on ABC knocked the cover off the ball, ratings-wise. Even after staggering audience turnout the night of the premiere, the numbers climbed even higher, with the show reporting record “Live+3” viewership – meaning, all the people who DVRed or otherwise watched after the initial broadcast.
Like seemingly everything else today, people were quick to find the political subtext to explain the show’s unexpected success. Given Roseanne Barr’s well-documented support for President Trump and the show’s decidedly non-liberal disposition, the assumption has been that the reboot drew in the rabid tribe of Trump supporters who otherwise feel disenfranchised by Hollywood. President Trump, master of tribalism that he is, added fuel to the fire by reportedly calling Ms. Barr to congratulate her on the show’s success.
So, with the show’s second episode to air tonight, what can we expect?
The Potential Juggernaut
Late last week, we surveyed just over 2,100 Americans aged 13 and older to see who watched the premiere, who plans to keep watching, and who will pick up the show this week. Here were the top line results:
Nearly 1 in 4 respondents said they had already watched the show, with 18% of watchers saying they don’t intend to keep tuning in. But this number should make ABC giddy: A full 15% of Americans say that, although they missed the premiere, they plan to start watching eventually. If these numbers hold true, it means that Roseanne could count over 1/3rd of American households among its viewers. That is no joke.
And Yes, Politics Seem to Be a Factor
Make no mistake, politics is affecting everything. So, it should come as no surprise to see that the Roseanne audience last week was disproportionately Republican. See for yourself:
Nearly half of the show’s initial audience identifies as Republican, with only 26% identifying as Democrat. Meanwhile, 46% of people who watched the premiere but won’t watch again are Democrats – either because they didn’t like the show’s political bent or they were turned off by President Trump’s effusive support for it. It’s interesting to note that the largest group of people who will never watch the show are political Independents. Perhaps the fact that the show has become a political lightning rod is enough reason to keep them away altogether.
Like It or Not, Roseanne Isn’t Going Away
The days of ubiquitous TV shows like American Idol or Seinfeld are likely in our rearview mirror forever. There was a time when aspiring to reach 1/3rd of U.S. households with a broadcast sitcom would have been modest. But that was before today’s fragmented media and socio-political landscape when 35% of people can not only set ratings records but even get a President elected.