The first episode of the L-Word has now graced screens across the world (albeit in not many countries) and the first data is now available on how well the show is doing.
The first thing to note is that publicly available ratings (provided by Nielsen Ratings) only cover the airing of the show on the US Cable network Showtime Prime, and not any of the online platforms, in the US or abroad. Naturally, given the L Word’s niche audience and its international popularity the majority of its viewership will be online, despite all the issues surrounding its international distribution.
The second thing to note is that the show has been independently produced, which means the network was not involved in production but only bought the rights to show the programme after it was made. This means that they will be especially wary on picking it up for another season as the expectation will be for them to fund production of a new season, and a big thing they look at to compare it to their other shows is the cable ratings. Naturally we would expect them to look at other metrics, especially given the uniqueness of the show, but these will be a big part of their decision-making.
If you weren’t aware of the difficulties in watching the L Word around the world, check out our article here on where it’s available and how to watch:
Networks will often pick up shows for a single season, watch closely how they do, and then decide whether to renew them. So now that the first episode has aired, we can look at how The L Word: Generation Q is doing, and compare it to some similar shows.
First off, The L Word: Gen Q:
On the first episode of The L Word: Generation Q (Showtime), 241,000 people across the US tuned in to watch, and it achieved a 0.05 rating for the core 18-49 demographic, meaning approximately 0.1% of those aged 18-49 in the US watched it. On the face of it this seems like a lot of people, but sadly this starts to get a bit less impressive when we compare it to some other shows.
Our other current Lesbian-powerhouse, Batwoman (the CW). On its premiere episode in October, Batwoman clocked in 1,801,000 viewers (7 times the L Word’s), is averaging 1,310,000 across all its episodes to date. So of course this show is a lot more mainstream and has a much higher budget with a lot more brand recognition for regular audiences, but does dwarf the L Word by quite some margin.
So lets compare to a more similarly sized show, the recent Queer Women’s period fare, Gentleman Jack (HBO). Its premiere brought in 441,000 viewers, and twice the share of the key 18-49 demographic than the L Word, and averaged 392,000 across all its first Season. HBO has said they will be bringing back the series for another season, possibly next year, and so clearly felt these numbers were sufficient for another run.
Going back a bit further, we can look at Killing Eve (BBC America), the other British queer women’s trailblazer from 2019, now consisting of two seasons, and queued up for two more, with AMC and BBC America.
The first season’s premiere caught the eye of 423,000 people, very similar to Gentleman Jack this year, and averaged 491,000 across its first run. Naturally this was again enough to promote its renewal, even on a network that relies less on online viewership than HBO, with similar figures to Gentleman Jack. The second season, as is typical, also brought in a much higher audience too, though that was split across the two networks this time.
And finally a look at fan-favourite Wynonna Earp (Syfy), which was saved from cancellation by an outpouring of support from its cult of fans, especially around its queer character, Waverly. The show has now achieved three seasons and is soon to follow with a fourth.
Its season 1 premiere saw 801,000 people watching, with quadruple the L Word: Gen Q’s share of the key demographic, 18-49, with a total season average of 558,000. And this was enough to drop the series in very hot water with the networks, and following a lacklustre second season (still averaging half a million viewers per episode), it took a concerted campaign by fans to keep the show going.
What does all this tell us about the L Word: Generation Q?
Well on the face of it, the numbers don’t look great. The show is not even coming close to similar series like Gentleman Jack and Killing Eve (they do perhaps have a broader, mainstream audience), and we only have data for the first episode, which is traditionally higher than the season average. We do have to bear in mind though, that online viewers will make up a larger proportion for the L Word, but will it be enough to save it. If I was a network executive at Showtime, and only had these numbers to go off, it would be clear to me that the L Word was not generating the kind of viewership to give it a second season, and as such its fate is fare from secure.
But that’s where the international and online markets come in. As more and more media moves away from traditional cable and broadcast TV platforms to streaming and Video-on-Demand, networks are shifting their attention into cyberspace. And the L Word is a perfect litmus test for this shift.
Given its niche, and also highly global, audience, the L Word could be expected to fare much better online than most other shows major networks are putting out, and we can only hope that the executives at Showtime, and other networks, are looking to their online platforms to serve niche audiences like ours. But there are of course a lot of hurdles to overcome, and the biggest of these is how to get the shows to the people that want them.
As we’ve already reported, The L Word: Gen Q has only seen a limited international release so far, with mostly HBO and a few smaller regional platforms picking it up, with some larger ones holding it in reserve until next year. So, to make sure that more content gets made, we need to make sure that the networks see we are an audience, and are hungry for more content like the L Word which is more representative of us as queer women and our experiences.
The L Word has more name recognition than almost any other LGBTQ+ centred show out there, and as such, the industry is going to use it as the benchmark to assess producing similar content in the future. If the L Word can’t make a profit, then nothing can, will be their logic, and that’s why we as a community need to show our support for it.
Shows like Wynonna Earp, now rolling into its fourth season, have shown the power fans can have in the face of raw statistics, and so making our voices heard about getting more L Word and getting it to more countries will be vital.
It is also very important that we show there is a market for the series. So, if you live in a country where it is available that means voting with your eyes and wallets and watching the content that matters to us, to give networks the reason to make more L Word and more LBQ Women’s content in general.
If you live outside a country where it is available, there are a few things you can do. Certainly, staying active on social media about your desire to have the L Word in your country, supporting it in the same way if/when it does come to you, and also potentially watching it online but from a different region.
See our article here on how to watch the L Word in different regions: https://www.lesflicks.com/news/where-can-i-watch-the-l-word/
We are really keen to see more LBQ Women’s content being produced, and to prove to TV and Film companies that we are an audience and that there is a demand for content that reflects us and our lives.
We hope you enjoy the L Word: Generation Q, and give it the support it needs to support even more great content like it.
Other ways you can prove you are part of an audience if you can’t watch The L Word: Gen Q right now
You can also help out directly by filling out our #WeAreAnAudience survey which we use to show TV
and Film companies about the unfulfilled demand for LBQ Women’s film and TV.
And you can also directly support LBQ Women filmmakers by watching their content on our dedicated Lesbian & Bisexual Women’s streaming platform at https://lesflicksvod.vhx.tv
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