A More In-Depth Look at Viewing for Starz 'The Pillars of The Earth' Than Most Sane People Would Bother With

Categories: Cable TV

Written By

August 11th, 2010

The table belowrepresents Live+SD (same day DVR viewing up to 3am after the telecast) in thousands (000) for the first 3 nights (four episodes) of The Pillars of the Earth on Starz.

The table does not include:

  • any Live+7 data (none is available yet)
  • any of the viewing of airings on Multiplexed Starz channels -- this is only for the flagship Starz channel (my insanity has  limits!)
  • any On Demand viewing (it's not available yet, but with any luck I'll track some down)
  • any of the viewing on Netflix instant streaming  (sadly, not available)
Date Episode Fri 10p Fri Encore Sunday 10p Sunday Late Total % Premiere
23-Jul 101/102* 424 none 136 560 75.71%
30-Jul 103 299 84 234 137 754 39.66%
6-Aug 104 362 15 208 65 650 55.69%

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Because the first two episodes were available in a multitude of ways prior to the premiere, including Encore and On Demand (even for customers who don't subscribe to Starz) and because it was a double episode that resulted in no Friday night encore, that's probably the atypical airing.

So why bother with this?  Do I need more reasons than a crush on Alison Pill and a soft spot for scorned Kings fans who can at least get a little Ian McShane?

OK, fine.  I was curious about how many people were watching this.  I didn't expect the 8-hour miniseries to be a big hit and I didn't get any sense that Starz did either. The viewing has pretty much come in where I expected it would based on other Starz viewing.   I expected "Pillars" would do somewhere between Party Down and Spartacus: Blood and Sand and that's what it has done.   "Spartacus" is Starz' breakout hit.   If you follow the TV media circles, you might have concluded Party Down was Starz' breakout hit, but sadly, apparently nobody watched the critically lauded show  except people who worked on the show, at Starz or in the  TV media.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah...But are the numbers any GOOD or not!?

Certainly by the standards of the Super Bowl, American Idol, the finale of Lost or even Sunday's episode of  True Blood, the numbers aren't good.   But those aren't the standards Starz will judge itself by.  Some will say True Blood is a reasonable comparison, but it's not.  As of the beginning of the year, HBO was in about 32 million homes, and Starz in about 22 according to Nielsen.   So while Starz is closer in availability to HBO than, USA (99 million homes),  HBO still has a hefty advantage over Starz.

Besides, True Blood is the exception that proves the rule (that it's very, very hard to aggregate a large U.S. audience if you're in less than 1/3rd of the homes in the U.S.).  True Blood by a wide margin is HBO's biggest hit.  In fact, with adults 18-49, it's the #1 scripted drama on cable, despite not being in nearly as many homes as  AMC (Mad Men),  FX (Sons Of Anarchy), TNT (The Closer) or USA (Burn Notice).   True Blood's performance is downright astonishing.  If I'm at Starz I'm definitely not using it as a benchmark.

Anyway, my conclusion is that the numbers are OK and about what Starz could've reasonably expected.  If I'm at Starz I'd find the numbers neither exceptionally good nor look-away bad.

Premium Cable is About Happy Subscribers and Attracting More of Them

The primary reason I'm interested in this (besides the crush on Alison Pill and a soft spot for Kings fans) at all is the ongoing changing dynamic at premium cable companies that is forcing more original programming.   For years the primary draw of premium channels was movies, but for a variety of factors, particularly DVD proliferation, there has been an ongoing shift.  Even five years ago Starz could still distinguish itself primarily as a movie channel. Starz (like its competitors) know that five years from now that will not be an easy sell.

So, like HBO and Showtime, Starz needs to distinguish itself with exclusive content.  You'll be seeing a lot more of it on Starz over the next 5 years.

There's probably nothing interesting in the numbers at the top of this post for most people.  The results didn't surprise me much, but still, if I'm at Starz the notion that even without factoring in 7 days of DVR, mulitplexing, or Netflix, the premiere telecasts of new episodes still only accounted for around 50% of the viewing -- and that percentage will go down when all the viewing that's not listed in the table is factored in.   If I'm at Starz, I view that as a good outcome.

 
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