April 7, 2014

NIELSENWAR: “Game of Thrones” Premiere and Other Early Sunday Cable Numbers


It was a dull week for the broadcast networks, with little variation from the week before.  CBS had the advantage, thanks to the series finale of How I Met Your Mother, giving it a 2.16 average in 18-49s for the week (5 nights same day finals, 2 nights overnights), up 0.08.  ABC followed with 1.59 (also up 0.08), then NBC at 1.48 (up 0.01), FOX at 1.23 (down 0.04) and CW at 0.40 (down 0.20 after a week that largely featured reruns).

There are only hundredths in play for the season to date numbers:

NBC:  2.50 (up 20% from last year with the Olympics, down 0.03 from last week)

FOX:  2.18 (up just 2.5% from last year despite having the Super Bowl, down 0.04 from last week)

CBS:  1.92 (down 24% from last year partly due to being Super Bowl-less, up 0.01 from last week)

ABC:  1.65 (down 10% from last year, even with last week)

CW:   0.53 (down 1% from last year, even with last week)

GAME OF THRONES had a colossal start to its 4th season last night with 6.6M total viewers (plus another 1.6M for reruns later in the evening)–and that’s not counting the hordes who charged HBOGo in such numbers to watch online that they crashed the system for the second time in weeks (the first being the season finale of True Detective).  For some perspective, Game was up 1M viewers from last season’s finale, 900K from its previous all-time high last May, and 2M from last season’s premiere (which aired against The Walking Dead).  It was also the most-watched show on HBO since the series finale of The Sopranos.  We won’t have the 18-49 numbers until tomorrow, but there’s a very real chance that Game will top the 3.3 for last night’s highest-rated show on the broadcast networks, the ACM Awards–despite HBO only being available in 1/3 of US households.  Expect the official announcement of a Season 5 renewal any second.

No one imagined the premiere of SILICON VALLEY would be in a league with the Games premiere, but the Mike Judge comedy started very strongly nevertheless, with 2M total viewers (plus 500K for later airings), more than double the launch of Girls and considerably higher than the 1.4M for the series premiere of VEEP in 2012 (which didn’t have quite the same level of lead-in).  Thinking of Veep, its Season 3 premiere had 955K total viewers (plus 550K for later airings), down 250K from last season’s premiere but only marginally down from last season’s finale (985K).

On AMC, the series premiere of TURN had 2.1M total viewers (plus 900K for the re-airing) and what should end up as a 0.5-0.6 in 18-49s.  Notably, that 10:30PM rerun added about another 0.4 to the demo rating, an unusually young-skewing result, which probably represents Game of Thrones viewers tuning in after their preferred show was done.  These aren’t exciting numbers, but they’re comparable to where Mad Men was for most of last season (although Mad Men has always been more of a boutique prestige hit than a blockbuster).  The question is whether they’ll hold up.

Showtime was busy too.  The season finale of SHAMELESS, despite airing directly against the Game premiere, had 1.9M total viewers (plus 900K for later airings), its highest rated finale ever when all airings were counted and highest rating of the season.  It should have a 0.9 rating in 18-49s for the initial airing, up 0.1 from last week despite the much stronger competition.  The season finale of HOUSE OF LIES had 730K viewers for the initial run and doubled its total with reruns, also its highest finale when all airings are counted.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."