Why You’re Really Watching Schitt’s Creek
Why do you watch Schitt’s Creek?
Because it’s a good show? Sure — it’s funny. I’m 4 seasons in.
But it’s not a great show. I’d argue (successfully) that it’s not even the best show with the word Creek in the title.
Feel free to open up your morning light (this link) in the background while you read the rest of the post
“Decent Dawson’s Creek joke, but good vs. great is subjective. And why does it even matter?”
Because Schitt’s Creek is massive. It’s grown like crazy — like it’s the best show of the past decade — and growing from unknown to ubiquitous is important if you’re an entrepreneur. So I want to know the how and the why.
Let’s dig in.
You’ve heard of Schitt’s Creek and you’ve probably watched it. A show that started as an indie with a small budget on Canadian network TV (after most US networks and HBO / Showtime passed) now consistently ranks as the second most watched show Netflix has acquired (according to Nielsen — a random week in March is below, but pull up any week and the top two shows are the same).
There were 532 original scripted series produced in 2019. Roughly 4,000 original scripted shows have been produced since 2010. And Schitt’s Creek gets watched more than just about all of them.
We’re quarantined with unlimited streaming options and yet the same conversation has taken place in households across the world
millions of times:
“We need a new show. What should we watch?”
“Let’s try Schitt’s Creek.”
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely got a startup or you’re growing a product. That decision moment — “what should we watch?” — will happen in some form for your customer. How you perform in that moment will determine whether you grow or fail.
In maybe the most competitive market on Earth, Schitt’s Creek has owned that moment. And it’s not because the content of the show is shareable. This is subjective, but Schitt’s Creek has barely entered the zeitgeist. There’s no powerful lead like Michael Scott or Leslie Knope stealing scenes. There aren’t supporting characters like Dwight Schrute or Jean-Ralphio (Go U) being quoted by your friends. It isn’t share-ably clever like The Good Place, doesn’t have romantic tension like Jim and Pam, and hasn’t owned pop culture like Tiger King.
Schitt’s Creek has grown by word of mouth without having content anywhere near as naturally shareable as the other shows on the list.
That last sentence is crazy, and it’s what drove me to dig in and figure out exactly what the heck is going on here. I came out the other side with a killer growth framework and a new appreciation for Schitt’s Creek.
That show is a freaking growth machine.
— — —
Everything Starts with Inflection Points
I’m a part of a couple, and when you’re a part of a couple you do dinners (or Zoom calls) with other couples. At some point during those dinners or Zooms, the conversation hits a wall. After a few silent beats, someone inevitably asks this question:
“So… you guys seen any good shows?”
At Tacklebox, we call this an Inflection Point. If you’re building a startup, it’s arguably the most important thing you can focus on early. You’ll need to identify whatever version of this moment happens for your customers, and you’ll need to figure out how to get there.
Here are the inflection points that led to me watching Schitt’s Creek.
Inflection points are the moments that build up to behavior change. I think of this as if the thing vying for your attention is a lawyer -”As you can see, your friend mentioned us, then your other friend who’s an expert — remember you went to their apt for an Oscar party — mentioned us, and now you yourself added us to your watch list! What more do you need?!” Schitt’s Creek was buzzing in my head for weeks, pleading their case.
The “Influence” moments were from other people telling me about the show. The “Action” moments were things I did to reinforce in my mind that I’d like to watch the show. You’ll need both and they’ll play off each other.
The most important part of these moments is understanding that you have no control over them. You can’t create them. Your job is to find them and latch on to them.
When I was running Find Your Lobster, a dating app I started back in 2011, I found an inflection point that drove most of our early growth. Through customer interviews, I learned how people joined dating sites. At the time, most people weren’t on dating apps in 2011. The ones who were told me about the moment they joined, and the stories were eerily similar.
They lived with a roommate who used to be single, too. But now they were in a serious relationship. They sat at home, frustrated and bored, for a few weekends. Eventually, on a Saturday night around 10:30pm when they were watching TV instead of out meeting people, they literally said — “f*ck it” and joined OkCupid.
There was my moment. I ran a Facebook campaign Friday and Saturday nights from 7pm to midnight that said a (funnier) version of “Your roommate is on another date and you’re stuck at home. Let’s find you someone.” Our conversion rates were astronomical.
Another example to take us home. Let’s say you’re making dog food for dog-owning millennials. From what I’m told (repeatedly, by my mom), millennials cannot stop adopting dogs and not having kids. Here’s how that looks:
Once you buy that dog food, there’s a good chance you aren’t changing for 12 years. At $60 per month, that’s a $9,000 sale. Learning inflection points allows you to build a strategy to infiltrate those conversations and build a business.
At Tacklebox, we leverage a scoring system. We’ve learned that you need to reach a score of about 6 before customers will convert. Each inflection point isn’t created equal:
The score isn’t meant to be precise. What it is meant to do is have you optimize for the far higher value touch points. It’s meant to get you away from flittering your money running social ads against VC-backed companies with bottomless social budgets.
You need to optimize for the 2- and 3-point moments — and that’s where Schitt’s Creek is otherworldly.
— — —
Here’s why you actually watch Schitt’s Creek
How would you describe Schitt’s Creek to a friend who’d never heard of it?
Exactly how I would. And that’s powerful.
“It’s about a family that’s super rich but lose all their money and have to go live in a motel in a small town in the middle of nowhere called Schitt’s Creek.”
It’s easy to remember and easy to understand. The dirty little secret about movies, TV shows and products is that people don’t actually want to be surprised. They want to know exactly where the boundaries are. Schitt’s Creek sets exceptional boundaries.
What am I talking about?
When you hear that one-sentence pitch about Schitt’s Creek, subconsciously you know exactly what will happen from the first episode to the last.
You know the rich people will come to the town and immediately hate it. They’ll be spoiled, they’ll be obnoxious, and they’ll look down on the locals.
Then, they’ll start to change. They’ll meet people they like. They’ll learn to appreciate the different way of life. They’ll realize that what they had before wasn’t all that great. They’ll fall in love with the locals and get hurt and be hurt by the locals.
There will be a culminating scene — the best scene in the show for me so far — where they get shown their old life and reject it for the new one. That’s the scene where Eugene Levy tells his old friends off at dinner. “It’s called Schitt’s Creek and we live there.” It’s incredibly moving because we subconsciously knew it was coming the whole time.
At the end of the show, the family will either get their money back or make a bunch of new money and have to decide whether or not they’ll leave the town. It’ll be a devastating choice (I don’t know what they’ll choose because I’m not there yet).
The show is about the growth of the main characters, and we know the entire trajectory — from the first episode to the last — after hearing one sentence.
From the inflection graph point above, we know lots of people learn about new shows from conversations with friends. When the key moment comes — “Seen any good shows lately?” — three things need to happen. The person asked needs to…
- Remember a show
- Quickly describe that show
- Be confident in what the show says about them
No other show can possibly compete with Schitt’s Creek in that scenario. We remember things that are easy to understand. Schitt’s Creek is as easy as it gets. So every time that inflection point conversation occurred, if the people involved in the conversation had watched it, it was the most likely show to be remembered. There weren’t Youtubes shared everywhere, gifs and memes didn’t go viral — just that word of mouth inflection point.
Which would indicate slow, compounding growth. Sort of like… this:
“Since launching on cable’s Pop network in 2015, the show has seen its linear ratings more than double and its overall audience soar past 3 million viewers. Word of mouth around the series has also exploded, fueled by critical acclaim and a 2017 deal which put past seasons of the show on Netflix. But Schitt’s didn’t just happen overnight. It’s been a slow-rolling success, blowing up at a point in its run when most other shows would just be starting to wind down.”
You watch Schitt’s Creek because it’s funny and you probably enjoy it. But there are hundreds — maybe thousands — of shows that are funny that you’d enjoy. That’s not why Schitt’s Creek has grown like it has.
Schitt’s Creek beat out 4,000 others shows by owning an inflection point.
And apply to Tacklebox if you want some help — Cohort 24 starts August 24th (all virtual). Founders who apply and are accepted in the next two weeks will have access to a 5-week pre-req workshop leading up to the cohort.
As always, reach out if you want to talk about this approach: Brian@gettacklebox.com