With second-season ratings rising and a spinoff on a sibling network slated to premiere June 4, A&E’s Live PD continues to gain momentum as it delivers viewers across multiple airings and platforms.
On Friday and Saturday nights, typically the lowest-rated of the week for most networks, Live PD is drawing a crowd. The show, which launched its second season Oct. 6, 2017, averaged 1 million viewers 25-54 per episode for the first four months of 2018, A&E said. As of the April 28 episode, season two’s ratings were up 43% over season one’s, while ratings have climbed 140% overall since the series premiere on Oct. 28, 2016.
And like popular reality franchises including Real Housewives and Keeping Up With the Kardashians, the show got its first spinoff before the end of its sophomore campaign. Lifetime in April announced the 20-episode Live PD Presents: Women on Patrol, which will focus on female officers.
The Dan Abrams-hosted Live PD is a successor to Cops for a new millennium, using Twitter to both capitalize on and drive fan engagement. With just over 245,000 followers (as of May 18), the show’s @OfficialLivePD Twitter account averages more than 100,000 interactions during each week’s live broadcasts and another 23,000 during the repeats, Elaine Frontain Bryant, A&E’s head of programming, said.
"I've never witnessed anything like it," Bryant said, adding that an avid virtual community has formed on Twitter around the hashtag #LivePDNation. "You never know what's going to happen on the show. That makes it really ripe for social conversation.”
Live PD uses Twitter to sound the drumbeat about two hours prior to each episode, posting the line-up of the seven law enforcement agencies it’s riding along with that night. The show has contracts with eight different counties across the country, and each has developed its own fanbase, which starts to chime in as soon as the line-up is posted.
An hour later, Abrams breaks in live on A&E to conduct the Live PD Roll Call, a run-down of each featured county’s history on the show; simultaneously their recent clips appear on the Twitter feed, and the conversation continues to grow. Viewers start checking in with #9PMRoutine tweets confirming they’ve heeded law enforcement calls to be safely inside, doors locked, by 9 p.m. Showtime.
Once the live show gets started, everyone becomes a lawyer. Or a director. “The fans are very opinionated,” Bryant said. They maintain a running commentary on every aspect of the show, even tweeting when they think it’s time to cut to new action.
The live viewer engagement has also influenced the outcome of the live onscreen action. During the April 14 episode, for example, viewers tweeted en masse when they saw a figure through a window of a house where Richland County, S.C., officers were investigating a reported break-in in progress.
The officers, who had originally concluded the house was empty, returned to the scene based on the tweets. Indeed, someone was inside: the housesitter.
Live PD also gives viewers official opportunities to be part of the action, via segments seeking leads that could close open cases. One of those segments, called "Missing," produced in partnership with The Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has generated tips that helped locate three kids, all found alive, Bryant said.
In late March, for example, the show helped find a young Texas girl, Mariah Martinez, who had been missing for almost two years. Authorities located her in New Mexico less than a week after the segment aired, Bryant said.
Viewers have taken their engagement offline as well. Following a January episode in which Slidell, La., police officers stopped a homeless man who had an attachment warrant against him for unpaid fines — they let him off with a warning — a call went out to #LivePDNation to help so the man wouldn't be arrested if he were stopped again.
“The man owed $600 in fines from a previous trespassing misdemeanor,” Bryant said. “He didn’t have the money to cover them, and two viewers paid them off.”
A&E sibling Lifetime is no doubt banking on those passionate fans to tune in to and engage with Women on Patrol when Live PD wraps season two in June. The spinoff won’t be live, but will be hoping to generate the kind of live engagement Live PD has enjoyed. It has already begun building a Twitter presence around #WomenOnPatrol, and its @WomenOnPatrol handle garnered about 300 followers in its first two weeks.
Produced by Big Fish Entertainment, Women on Patrol will premiere June 4 and will feature female law enforcement officers (#LadyLEOs) from counties in Wyoming, North Carolina, Arizona and California.