The Syfy channel's first "Sharknado" movie last July generated buzz through social media chatter.
The second movie, appropriately titled "Sharknado 2: The Second One," used a different tactic -- getting attention through ample news coverage in the run-up to air. And it earned much higher ratings as a result.
About 3.9 million viewers tuned into Wednesday's sequel, a dramatic increase from the 1.4 million who tuned in for the original "Sharknado" last July.
Syfy said the sequel ranked as its highest-rated original movie ever. The channel also called it "the most social movie on TV ever."
Twitter(TWTR, Tech30) and other social networking sites almost certainly helped the silly sequel gain an audience: Nielsen found around 580,000 tweets related to "Sharknado 2" on Wednesday night, nearly twice as many as there were on the day the first "Sharknado" premiered.
But the big difference this time around was the bounty of free publicity from news outlets, including TV shows like NBC's "Today" show, which has the same owner as the Syfy channel. Interest in the "Sharknado" phenomenon -- if it can be called that -- was so high that the Discovery channel even bought an ad during the movie for its forthcoming "Shark Week" programming.
How 'Sharknado' won the Internet
As a result of all the free press, many more viewers knew to tune in for the premiere of the sequel.
When the original "Sharknado" was broadcast, online excitement about it spurred news stories and, consequently, higher ratings for the repeats. The first movie's peak audience was 2.1 million viewers, for its second repeat.
Wisely, Syfy will re-air "Sharknado 2" several times this weekend. And it has already ordered a third movie.
Dave Howe, the president of Syfy, isn't revealing anything about the third movie. But he reveled in the ratings for the second one, saying in an email message, "The big apple just got the biggest bite it's ever seen!!"