The only people watching “Twin Peaks” are paying to stream it

There are still a lot of loose ends to tie up, but David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” has already done its job for Showtime.
There are still a lot of loose ends to tie up, but David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” has already done its job for Showtime.
Image: AP Images/Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Showtime
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Nearly 30 years after it was first cancelled, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks appeared to be as unpopular as ever when it was revived in May by Showtime.

Just 506,000 US viewers (paywall) turned in for the two-part premiere on May 21. And the numbers have dwindled down to a season average of around 300,000 live- and same-day viewers since. Yet Showtime, the US premium cable network that revived the series is a raving success because the surreal drama, which has always had an outsized pop-culture presence thanks to its dedicated cult following, has drawn droves of new subscribers to Showtime’s streaming apps.

CBS, which owns Showtime, expects standalone services CBS All Access and Showtime, which subscribers pay for directly, to reach a combined 4 million subscribers by year’s end, up from nearly 3 million in February, thanks in part to new viewers Twin Peaks brought in, CEO Leslie Moonves said on an earnings call yesterday.

“Our Showtime over-the-top (OTT) service is coming off a terrific quarter as well, thanks largely to Twin Peaks,” said Moonves, referring to the paid service. “The premiere of the show led to our biggest day and biggest weekend ever for OTT signups, and the percentage of viewers streaming Twin Peaks is the highest we’ve ever had for a show, which is good news because OTT subscribers are more profitable for us.”

Showtime’s standalone streaming service costs $10.99 a month to subscribe to directly in the US, and offers a seven-day free trial.

Showtime CEO David Nevins credited Twin Peaks for an 11% lift in cable network operating income during the second quarter of 2017, as well, even though the show isn’t nearly as popular as other Showtime series like Shameless, Homeland, Ray Donovan, and Billions.

Whatever you may think of The Return, which has a lot to wrap up in its five remaining episodes (Coop still isn’t himself, his dark doppelganger remains on the loose, something mysterious is happening again in the Palmer house—and then there’s the bearded men) it had one purpose for Showtime—to bring in new audiences, and it served Showtime well.

“I’m really happy with the performance,” Nevins told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “It drove our business in a way that almost nothing else could. It’s been interesting and maybe it’s a blinding glimpse of how Netflix looks at the world but [it had] a palpable effect on subscribers even though its overall numbers are not as big as our biggest shows.”

That’s good news for creator Lynch and the network, given that the series reportedly cost a sizable sum to develop.

Twin Peaks’ May premiere got a significant lift from streaming and delayed viewing, too. At least 1.7 million viewers watched in the five days after the Sunday debut, up from the half a million live viewers, Showtime said in May—and about 1 million of those streamed on platforms like Showtime’s standalone app and its app for pay-TV subscribers, Showtime Anytime.

Still, don’t expect Twin Peaks to continue beyond the 18 episodes allotted for the revival, which was originally meant to be 9-13 episodes. Nevins said the show is unlikely to return again: ”I don’t think so, but it’s not impossible. [Lynch and I are] both avoiding the conversation for a while; we want to let the story coalesce and see how people feel at the end.”

Fans, too, are eagerly awaiting the conclusion, in the hopes it puts a proper cap on a long-beloved show.