Why Fox Isn’t Sweating ‘Scream Queens’ Debut Numbers – Yet

Network expects millennials to give show a big lift in delayed viewing

Fox’s “Scream Queens” premiere Tuesday night didn’t exactly break any ratings records. But those numbers – a 1.7 ratings and 4 million viewers – may not be as bad as they seem at first blush.

The Ryan Murphy series has a few things working against it in terms of traditional live-plus-same-day Nielsen ratings.

For starters, the show’s audience skews quite young, which means there wouldn’t be a lot of viewers at the upper end of broadcast primetime’s key 18-49 demographic tuning in for it anyway. Plus, the youthful, social media-and-tech-savvy audience that “Scream Queens” targets is likely to do their sample viewing on a delayed basis or across additional platforms that are not currently measured by Nielsen.

Additionally, the regularly one-hour show was two hours last night — and lengthening never helps ratings averages. Finally, going forward, “Scream Queens” becomes a 9 p.m. show with actual lead-ins, whereas it had to be a self-starter at 8 o’clock last night.

Fox actually expects the roll-up numbers — which count more days and ways to view — to tell an entirely different story. As some additional stats trickle out, the network may have a fair enough point.

Among women 18-34 — undoubtedly the group that this show would attract — “Scream Queens” outperformed last night’s “Muppets” premiere on ABC by 28 percent. It was way above CBS’ “Limitless” — the other shiny new Tuesday debut — but that one is to be expected based on content and delivery vehicle. Fox’s comedy/horror also hybrid ranked No. 1 last night in female teens.

“Scream Queens” delivered Fox’s highest rated Tuesday in that demo since February 2014 (“American Idol.”) And compared to the same night last year, the Keke PalmerLea MicheleEmma Roberts ensemble handed Fox a 60 percent increase.

That latter evening, primetime consisted of “Utopia,” “New Girl,” and “The Mindy Project” — two of the three which have since been canceled by network Co-CEOs Dana Walden and Gary Newman.

The show was also steady across its full 120 minutes. In the main 18-49 demo, the show started with a 1.7 rating in its first half hour and didn’t dip below a 1.6 in any measured 30-minute window thereafter. That indicates that those who started watching, generally did not stop watching — which usually means viewers like what they are seeing. That wouldn’t be a surprise as “Scream Queens” has generally received solid — though not great — reviews, including a glowing one from TheWrap that readers can check out here.

Social buzz also helps support Fox’s claims: “Scream Queens” was the No.1 most social program across all of TV yesterday.

Fox projects “Scream Queens” to rise 63 percent to a 2.6 rating with three days of delayed viewing. Making that a full week of catch-up tune-in, the network believes “Scream Queens” will lift 88 percent to a 3.0. It also foresees the premiere’s total multiplatform audience clocking in at 10.5 million viewers — or a 163 percent jump.

Based on the massive marketing campaign and spend for this series, executives at Fox have certainly got their fingers crossed.