While the critically-acclaimed sci-fi TV series Orphan Black – starring Golden Globe-nominee Tatiana Maslany as a group of clones – has one of television’s most vocal and passionate fanbases, its following is pretty small in the grand scheme of current television entertainment. However, through a new airing strategy, BBC America hopes to use its new partnership with AMC Networks to change that.
AMC is reportedly going to air the season three premiere episode of Orphan Black simultaneously across all the stations owned by the network – including AMC, Sundance TV, IFC and We TV – in addition to BBC America, when the new season gets underway this April.
For Orphan Black to stay on the air, success needs to start coming in the form of ratings across live viewership and DVR incorporated playback for live +3 day and live +7 day audiences (networks have become more interested in DVR assisted playback as live viewership has gone down over the years). Over the course of its last season, the show failed to creep over 1 million viewers in overall audience in any of its episodes. While BBC America doesn’t require big numbers to keep a show on the air, it still needs numbers, and an effects heavy drama like Orphan Black can’t survive with the ratings it currently holds.
However, where the show stands apart is in its fanbase. Any other series would have been cancelled by now, but the show’s vocal minority has led BBC America to rethink its strategy. There are clear examples of people becoming interested in Orphan Black once locked in, so perhaps the problem isn’t the show, but the perception people have of the network it airs on.
After all, while it’s become known thanks to shows like Doctor Who and Luther, BBC America’s had very little success in attracting audiences to its non-import programming – which is due mostly in part to buzz for those non-British shows being mostly non-existent. BBC America is primarily viewed as a home for British imports, and thus people go to the network with that expectation. So, unfortunately, anything outside of that limited sphere gets no one intrigued because there’s no mass proof of the programming in question being any good. But, a network like AMC doesn’t have that problem.
AMC has far more wins than losses when it comes to perception, as evidenced by the success of American TV shows like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and Mad Men. By exposing audiences to Orphan Black on a network they know airs “quality” programming, it will, hopefully, increase the series’ value, and give those viewers a reason to follow it back to its home on BBC America. Basically, this all boils down to is brand perception – and since Orphan Black is great, it not just deserves the break that this move will provide (assuming it works), it should also have no problems maintaining the newfound viewership. But, that viewership needs to come first, and it needs to come sooner rather than later.
Orphan Black premieres Apri 18th, 2015 on BBC America.