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Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Lifetime’s Hit Docuseries Surviving R. Kelly Busts Through Our Netflix Fixation

Surviving R. Kelly is a timely reminder that a well-told docuseries can ignite a popular conversation, even if its not on Netflix.

The three-night, six-hour Lifetime series features multiple women who say they were sexually abused by the singer.  Many of them were minors when they met the “Pied Piper of R&B”.



  • Surviving R. Kelly pulled in audiences far larger than Lifetime’s recent viewership.
  • dream hampton’s series averaged 2.1 million viewers and a 0.9 rating among adults 18-49 in Nielsen’s live plus same-day ratings.
  • Viewership also grew throughout Surviving R. Kelly‘s run.
    • The first hour on Thursday drew 1.8 million viewers.
    • By Saturday’s second hour, the audience had grown to 2.29 million.
    • And the core demo’s are more than three times Lifetime’s usual performance.
    • In 3Q’18, Lifetime’s average prime audience was .54 million (persons / P2+).

Public Television Coverage 

Prosecutors Respond

The Unscripted Exposé

  • Sonia Saraiya writing in Vanity Fair calls the genre “the unscripted exposé”.
  • She writes: “The story of R. Kelly and his alleged victims has been given the Lifetime treatment: shaky stock footage, melodramatic audio accompaniment, that suspense-heightening gimmick that transforms a provocative image into a haunting negative. Heavy-handed incidental music burbles and buzzes over every wrenching interview…”

My Takeaway

  • I say: “If it works, bring it on, Lifetime and dream hampton!”
  • Its great news that a legacy network can deliver on a compelling story that addresses multiple, deeply troubling issues…
  • Earn a massive audience for a niche channel…
  • Spark an explosion in social media interactions…
  • AND reopen a criminal investigation!

More: What Does Lifetime Pay?