If you've been on the Internet, like, at all today, you've likely seen at least a sliver of the massive amount of buzz that Syfy's latest television event, Sharknado, has been receiving since its premiere last night. If not, we'll just tell you right now: it's a lot. Judging by the amount of coverage and tweets about the movie, it sort of seems like everyone and their mother tuned in to watch Beverly Hills, 90210 star Ian Ziering slice right through a shark with a chainsaw (no, really, this is a REAL SCENE).
But it begs the question: just how big of a success was Sharknado, really?
First off, let's look at the Twitter numbers, because Twitter is always the first place everyone goes to share any important/stupid thoughts that pop into their head. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sharknado received over 604,000 unique tweets between the hours of 8 PM and 3 AM ET—a massive amount for any TV movie or show, let alone a Syfy broadcast. For some (absolutely insane) context: that's 363,000 more tweets than the major Game of Thrones red wedding episode received, and we all remember how crazy that made Twitter. Though it's important to consider that Syfy is a basic cable channel that many people subscribe to as opposed to HBO, which is premium cable, these numbers are still astonishing. More people talked about Sharknado on Twitter than during the airing of the red wedding! These are the choices that people made!
Though these stats are crazy and seemingly cement Sharknado's status as the best-movie-of-all-time-period-no-arguments, here's something else to consider: despite the massive amount of tweets, ratings were pretty much on par with Syfy's normal, tornado full of sharks-less original programming—there was no gigantic spike in viewership, as would be expected.
As The Atlantic points out, Sharknado earned a mere 0.4 in the ratings, and pulled in about 1.4 million viewers. Most Syfy programs end up earning about 1.5 million, so this number is hardly astonishing. Compare that to GoT's red wedding episode, which pulled in 5.22 million viewers when it first aired last month. Sharknado may have received a massive amount of coverage over the past few days for its batshit insane premise, but the Game of Thrones episode did too—and it didn't even include any sharks. It all depends on how exactly you measure the success of a show: Buzz and coverage, or ratings?
Thirdly, the amount of tweets that Sharknado acquired is astonishing given the subject matter (SHARKS IN A TORNADO, WHO COMES UP WITH THIS), but compared to other shows that receive a lot of attention on social media, it's hardly anything we haven't seen before. According to The Wrap, ABC Family's original series, Pretty Little Liars, was the most-tweeted about show during the first quarter of 2013, receiving a total of 11.7 million tweets for the ten episodes that aired between January and March of this year. Average that number out, and that's about 1 million tweets per episode. Similarly, the recent season four premiere of PLL pulled in a massive 1.3 million tweets, even beating out The Walking Dead in terms of Twitter power. Still, though, their average amount of viewers per episode is somewhere around 2.6 million, whereas TWD pulls in an average of 11 million viewers per episode. Ratings-wise, it's clear which is the more successful show, but judging solely off tweets, not so much.
Bottom line: Sharknado definitely was a success in terms of demonstrating how a film of such little quality and a plot line involving a tornado filled with sharks can generate massive buzz for a network—it just has to own how ridiculous it is, and involve scenes like Ian Ziering diving face-first into a shark's mouth with a chainsaw—but as far as ratings go, it wasn't anything Syfy hasn't seen before. Whether or not that makes it an overall success is relative, but considering Internet buzz is the way to build up ratings in this day and age, we're inclined to say that it absolutely was.