All through the autumn, the producer Greg Berlanti was making an attempt to save lots of his cable drama “You.”
The sequence had premiered on Lifetime in September, however its viewership was nearly nonexistent: roughly 650,000 folks have been tuning in to every episode of the soapy stalker thriller, starring Penn Badgley. Even Mr. Berlanti, probably the most profitable and prolific producers in tv because of reveals like “Riverdale,” “Arrow” and “Blindspot,” conceded in an interview that “barely anyone watched” it.
He made repeated calls to Lifetime executives, asking for persistence and making his case for a second season. It wasn’t sufficient. In early December, Lifetime introduced it was completed with “You.”
However proper after Christmas, one thing occurred. “You” began lighting up social media. Folks have been looking for it on-line. Leisure websites like The Ringer have been writing in regards to the present.
What modified? It started streaming on Netflix.
Mr. Berlanti heard from household and pals about how a lot they have been having fun with his new present, ignoring the truth that it had debuted months earlier.
“It’s fairly often in direct proportion to how younger they’re,” he mentioned. “The youthful they’re, the extra they talk about the present as if it had by no means existed earlier than Dec. 26.”
[Learn The New York Instances review of “You.”]
Last week, Netflix declared “You” had drawn the sort of audience to make it a “huge hit.” The streaming service said that “You” was on track to be watched by 40 million households within its first four weeks on the service.
The Netflix viewership disclosure — one of the few times the service has made those numbers public, seven years after it began airing original series — set off something of an earthquake in the industry.
Could the numbers be believed? Could it be possible that a show that premiered on cable television may as well not have existed until Netflix — which now has 139 million paying subscribers, including 58.5 million in the United States — came around to stream it? Netflix is already a television network and a movie studio. Was it one step closer to effectively becoming television itself?
As Daniel D’Addario, a TV critic for Variety, posited, “‘You’ flailing on Lifetime and being handled by the viewing public as a Netflix unique goes to be remembered as a serious turning level in what’s going to shortly be a contraction of the TV business.”
And it must be famous that Lifetime just isn’t precisely a scores wasteland. Its documentary “Surviving R. Kelly” has been one of many yr’s early hits.
In the meanwhile, Mr. Berlanti is a believer.
“It went from being one of many least-watched reveals I’ve ever labored on and been most pleased with — and I’m selecting to take Netflix at their phrase on this — to being the most-watched present I’ve ever labored on in 20-something years of being within the enterprise,” he mentioned.
Oh, and Netflix can be making a second season of “You.” Filming begins subsequent month.
All through the weekend, rival tv executives groused privately that the viewership quantity Netflix launched was nearly meaningless. Netflix defined that every of these 40 million viewers had watched at the very least 70 % of 1 episode. (“You” has 10 episodes in its first season.)
How that 40 million would translate into a standard viewership determine is unknown. A median of 12.7 million folks have watched this season of “The Huge Bang Concept” on CBS, however a considerably increased variety of folks have sampled at the very least one episode. Few within the tv business would put a lot inventory in such a determine.
When reached for remark, Lifetime referred to an earlier assertion it launched when it lower ties with “You,” saying, “We want the solid and crew the perfect because the sequence continues on at Netflix.”
Mr. Berlanti started creating “You” nearly 4 years in the past with the producer Sera Gamble. Showtime initially deliberate to make the sequence, which is predicated on a novel by Caroline Kepnes, earlier than passing on it. It then went to Lifetime, which over the summer time dedicated to creating a second season.
“You” facilities on a Manhattan bookstore supervisor named Joe (Mr. Badgley) who turns into obsessive about a younger lady who stops by his store. He plumbs her social media channels. He follows her residence. He begins studying her textual content messages. The sometimes hilarious sequence, which examines web privateness and youth tradition, was warmly obtained by critics when it debuted in September. The New Yorker referred to as it “a scary, scrumptious snack of a present.”
What it couldn’t discover was an viewers on cable. On the times it aired, it had hassle gaining greater scores than the 7 a.m. version of “SportsCenter.”
Fortunately for Mr. Berlanti, “You” had a well-financed supporter.
Months earlier than the sequence premiered, Netflix signed on to be the streaming accomplice of the sequence.
Bela Bajaria, a vice chairman of content material for Netflix who scooped up the streaming rights, had seen success with “Riverdale,” one other of Mr. Berlanti’s sequence. In its second season, after “Riverdale” started streaming on Netflix, its viewership on the CW shot up 42 %. Netflix has had that impact on sequence earlier than, together with AMC’s Emmy-winning drama “Breaking Unhealthy,” which noticed elevated viewership totals after it started streaming.
Ms. Bajaria was passionate about “You” from the second she learn the script.
“We actually felt this hit a candy spot for our viewers, and we felt that our members would love the present,” she mentioned. “I hoped it might be large.”
By the point Lifetime determined to renege on its second season dedication in early December, Netflix mentioned it might make a second season although the sequence had not began streaming but.
Ms. Bajaria’s confidence within the present was properly rewarded. She pored over the viewership numbers between Christmas and New 12 months’s Day and noticed Netflix had successful on its fingers instantly after it started streaming.
“It’s really finished properly in each area, and that doesn’t all the time occur,” Ms. Bajaria mentioned, saying she was notably happy with its efficiency in Latin America, France and the Philippines.
For Mr. Berlanti, the sudden success of “You,” after months of despair, was reassuring.
“I’ve by no means had an expertise that has been this delayed in tv earlier than,” he mentioned. “The truth that it was rewarded by folks really watching made us really feel we’re not loopy. We really did make one thing that was actually satisfying and enjoyable and an actual experience for the viewers.”
Mr. Berlanti, starting to snigger, then in contrast the sequence to the obsessive lovelorn character on the coronary heart of “You.”
“If Joe is a person who is solely simply looking for love, properly, then, our present lastly discovered the precise accomplice,” he mentioned.