By the time 2008 rolled around, vampires were well established in the zeitgeist with a surging Twilight film series and the beginnings of HBO’s True Blood. The CW, a joint venture of CBS Corp. and Warner Bros., put its hat in the ring with The Vampire Diaries — and the risk paid off. Based on L. J. Smith’s young-adult novels, the show centers on a parentless teenage girl who catches the eye of two vampire brothers while navigating adolescence, the supernatural and death. Lots of death. Any talk of Diaries just being TV’s Twilight clone subsided when it debuted Sept. 10, 2009, to 5.7 million viewers and became The CW’s highest-rated show among younger viewers, with an enviable median viewer age of 34.5. While season-five ratings average 3.8 million, its social media reach is far-ranging, with nearly 18 million Facebook fans and 420,000 Twitter followers (more than 17 million if you count the cast’s and producers’ followers). It ranks as the fourth-most-social broadcast series, behind American Idol, The Voice and The X Factor, according to Trendrr, and it’s seen in more than 180 countries. The key players of Diaries spoke candidly with THR about the success of the series.
THE TWILIGHT EFFECT
PETER ROTH, Warner Bros. TV Group president and chief content officer: At the time, Alloy Entertainment, now a part of Warner Bros., were our partners. Through that relationship, we were exposed to The Vampire Diaries and were so taken with these characters.
KEVIN WILLIAMSON, executive producer: A long, long, long time ago, Alloy had brought the books to my office, saying, “What about a movie?” I basically didn’t read the books. I said no on the premise and the idea. It just seemed, in the wake of Twilight, that it shouldn’t be the direction I take. Then, years later, The CW came to me with it.