It's been almost three months since Hubbard Broadcasting-owned ReelzChannel aired the world premiere of The Kennedys-but the network's viewership numbers are still up significantly.
Unique viewers now total between 8.5 million and 9 million, according to ReelzChannel CEO Stan Hubbard. When the series debuted in early April, about 10 million unique viewers tuned in to the network-up significantly from about 3 million in January and 5.5 million in mid-March.
Hubbard said in March that he'd be happy with 6 million unique viewers after the eight-part series concluded on April 10-so current figures have greatly exceeded his expectations.
"[The Kennedys] put us on a map that we haven't been able to get on yet," Hubbard said. "It's certainly given us some jet fuel to propel our business."
Albuquerque, New Mexico-based ReelzChannel scooped up the multimillion-dollar series in February after it was dropped by the History channel and passed over by numerous cable networks due to concerns about the historical accuracy of the script. Hubbard insists that the series was well researched and well vetted by professional historians-and he believes that Hubbard Broadcasting's position as an independent company helped it to be able to make the purchase. According to The Wall Street Journal, ReelzChannel paid about $7 million for the series and put an estimated $10 million into promoting it.
The series recently garnered 10 Emmy nods-"total validation for the folks that made it," folks who have received more than their fair share of criticism and ridicule over the last couple of years as the series was heavily critiqued, Hubbard said.
In addition to seeing an increase in unique viewers since the debut of The Kennedys, ReelzChannel has also seen a boost in the time that viewers spend watching the network's programs.
The household rating over an 18-hour day of programming has jumped from just under 0.05 at the beginning of this year to 0.11 currently. And the prime time household rating over that period has tripled to just under 0.3, Hubbard reports.
Ratings are calculated by Nielsen Company, and each ratings point represents 1 percent of U.S. homes that have televisions.
Those ratings are particularly significant given that ReelzChannel is showing "virtually the same lineup" as it did earlier this year, Hubbard said. But he plans to change that in the coming months.
One of the things that ReelzChannel-which brings in about 600 hours of original programming annually-learned from The Kennedys is that miniseries work well for its audience.
"You're going to see us bring more miniseries," Hubbard promises. For example, later this year, ReelzChannel will air The Pillars of the Earth, a miniseries that Starz debuted last July and that's competing with The Kennedys for an Emmy in the category of "miniseries or made-for-TV movie."
ReelzChannel, which is entirely ad-supported, went on the air in 2006 but still loses about $10 million annually. Because of ReelzChannel's substantial investment in The Kennedys, Hubbard expects a similar situation this year. But he said that the network is on track to come close to meeting its previously stated goal to double the network's $15 million in annual revenue by the end of this year.
"The hope and expectation is that 2012 will be a profitable year for us"-and that's in large part due to the success of The Kennedys, Hubbard said.