January 14, 2013

THE SKED: Sunday’s Showtime, HBO Premiere Ratings


Despite strong competition in every direction on Sunday night, Showtime had a very strong start for its winter line-up, setting new records for SHAMELESS, HOUSE OF LIES and CALIFORNICATION.  Demo numbers aren’t yet available, but in total viewers for its initial airing, Shameless reached the 2M mark, up 400,000 from last season’s premiere and up more than half a million from the Season 2 finale.  House of Lies (a Golden Globe winner last night for star Don Cheadle), had 1.2M viewers on its first airing, up 200K from its series premiere and 400,000 from the Season 1 finale.  Californication, in its venerable 6th season, had 1.1M viewers at 10:30PM, which was up a very healthy 350,000 or so from both its Season 5 premiere and finale.  (All of this is even more impressive because Showtime had made the episodes available for download prior to their on-air premieres.)

HBO offered a tutorial in the importance of lead-ins.  Last season, GIRLS (also busy winning Best Comedy and Best Comedy Actress over at the Globes) followed the network’s most gigantic hits for its entire run, with millions of viewers at the network already for Game of Thrones and True Blood.  This year, the sophomore series is being asked to self-start the night, and in that context, a slip to 860,000 viewers from the 1M who watched the Season 1 finale isn’t too bad.  (It was about even with the series premiere last year.)  On the other hand, last season ENLIGHTENED had the low-rated Bored to Death as its lead-in, a show watched by about one-third as many viewers as Girls.  With the higher lead-in, Enlightened rose to 300,000 viewers last night, up about 50,000 from its Season 1 finale and 90,000 from the series premiere.  That’s still not much to write home about, but at least it’s headed in the right direction.

With Showtime having edged ahead of HBO last fall with Dexter and Homeland over Boardwalk Empire and Treme, and the network apparently holding onto its lead for the winter season, there seems to be something of a shift in the balance of power between the paycable giants… although that will last only so long, since Showtime still has no blockbusters on the order of a Game of Thrones or True Blood in its arsenal.


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."