Anyone following our TV show DVD sales posts, our cable show ratings, or Robert's foray into DVD sales sociology would know about the popularity and financial success of HBO's True Blood, and now the New York Times has found it too, and provided some interesting numbers for us.
In the three episodes measured so far this, its second, season, “True Blood” has amassed viewer totals that any network, including broadcast networks, would be excited to own: 12.1 million, 10 million and 10.3 million. And HBO has attracted those viewers from an audience base about a third the size of fully distributed networks.
This season, “True Blood” has a first-run Sunday night audience of about 3.6 million, up from two million for last season.
Again with the claim of broadcast networks being exited about much lower numbers from a cable show. Robert pointed out earlier that was just silly. What's the TV press drinking these days? Send a round over to us.
HBO counts audiences across all the platforms that wind up offering the episodes: a repeat on HBO itself, repeats on HBO2 and its video-on-demand channel, replays on digital video recorders and downloads from iTunes.
That is how the numbers grow to more than 10 million. (For perspective, “The Sopranos” finished its first run with a Sunday night audience of 11.9 million, which grew to 14.2 million with the extra viewers added in.
This point is an important one for folks to understand concerning where those big (10+ million numbers come from in HBO press releases and stories). It's not individual episodes, but aggregate for an entire week. You can't compare those numbers on an apples to apples basis with broadcast numbers, although occasionally advertising supported cable does quote aggregate numbers for their shows.
There is no direct relationship between successful shows on HBO and the network’s subscription base; that has remained relatively stable (about 29 million to 30 million) through the feast years of “The Sopranos” and the famine that followed.
But hit series are what keeps up HBO’s reputation as being talked-about around the water cooler, which is one crucial part of its business model.
That's a relevant point about HBO's business model, it cares only about getting subscriptions. If you subscribe to even watch a single show, they're happy. What was also interesting to me, if it's true, is that HBO's subscriber base has remained relatively stable post-Sopranos. (however the number of people that *could* subscribe has increased, so their take up rate has fallen).
Showtime, HBO’s chief pay-cable competitor, draws much smaller audiences for its hits: about 3.3 million viewers this year (including all platforms) for the long-running comedy “Weeds,” and about 3.1 million for the critically lauded new half-hour series “Nurse Jackie” which features Edie Falco, a former “Sopranos” star.
Some perspective (and likely an HBO dig) on rival Showtime's recent numbers. The NY Times story mentions that inside Showtime they'd begun referring to HBO as "HB-Over. HBO PR has got to be feasting on this story.