All American, One of Broadcast’s Least-Watched Shows, Is Now No. 1 on Netflix

The best example yet of the 'Netflix bump'

A male character from the show All American talking into a microphone
All American's 'Netflix bump' after Season 1 helped convince The CW to renew it for a second season. Tina Thorpe/The CW

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During its two seasons, The CW’s drama All American has barely made a dent in the linear ratings, and is in fact one of broadcast’s least-watched primetime shows.

But on Netflix, it’s a completely different story. After Season 2 was added to the streaming service on Tuesday, it shot to the top of Netflix’s most popular shows in the U.S., and has occupied the No. 1 spot among all Netflix movies and TV shows for the past two days.

It’s the most recent example of what The CW network president Mark Pedowitz has called the “Netflix bump,” as his younger-skewing network’s shows like Riverdale find a large audience on Netflix that did not watch the series on linear. The network then tries to entice those new Netflix fans back to The CW to watch or stream the next season’s episodes.

Season 2 of All American, which follows high school quarterback Spencer James (played by Daniel Ezra), was tied for 201st among all primetime broadcast shows this season in the adults 18-49 demo, with a 0.4 rating, according to Nielsen’s most current metrics. It averaged 1.1 million total viewers, which is tied for 227th this season among all primetime broadcast shows.

But it’s been No. 1 on Netflix since Season 2 moved to the platform on March 27. Netflix doesn’t share total viewership figures, but its Top 10 list, released in February, gives some insight as to the shows and movies that are doing particularly well among the service’s more than 61 million U.S. households.

The CW was uniquely positioned to benefit from a “Netflix bump” given that under a previous deal with the streaming service, the full season of every series on the network moved to Netflix just eight days after airing its season finale on The CW. That gave Netflix viewers several months to stream episodes, as opposed to many SVOD deals, in which full seasons do not become available on a streaming service until 30 days before the next season is set to return on its linear network.

This is the second time that All American has benefited from the “Netflix bump,” since it also helped the low-rated series secure a Season 2 renewal last year. At the Television Critics Association’s press tour last summer, Pedowitz said the show enjoyed a Riverdale-like surge in popularity upon its availability on Netflix. While the network “believed” in All American despite its meager ratings on linear, its “phenomenal” success on Netflix was part of the thinking behind bringing the show back for a sophomore season.

Despite the low rating, the network said that All American is its most-streamed series in-season on The CW app, which is free and ad-supported.

(The CW has already renewed All American for Season 3, as part of a move in January to pick up almost its entire current slate for next season.)

All American and Riverdale aren’t the only shows to make a bigger splash on Netflix than on linear. You, which barely made a peep when Season 1 debuted on Lifetime in fall 2018, saw a huge surge of viewers when it moved to Netflix: 40 million households watched at least 70% of a Season 1 episode in You’s first four weeks on the service, according to Netflix.

While The CW has also seen a “Netflix bump” from shows like In the Dark, the network can no longer rely on that to boost for its new shows, following a digital strategy shift last year when its Netflix deal lapsed. While previously-running shows will continue to migrate to Netflix, The CW’s new series—including Batwoman, Nancy Drew and Katy Keene—will move to new digital homes.

The network has secured in-season streaming rights on its digital platforms to those series, meaning that all episodes of its new shows’ current season—known as the “full stack”—will be available on and The CW app, until 30 days before the start of the next season. At that point, the series produced by Warner Bros. TV (including Batwoman) will move to HBO Max, while the CBS TV-produced Nancy Drew will be available on CBS All Access.

Without the Netflix bump to count on, “the biggest challenge we all have is to get the Netflix viewer, who may not pay attention to us, to come and look at our shows,” Pedowitz told Adweek last fall. “We’re going to have to be very smart about it.”

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.