Yes, of course we know that the ratings don't matter to HBO in the way that they matter for broadcast networks and advertising supported cable channels. HBO doesn't sell advertising so it really only cares about happy subscribers and luring more of them. And yes, of course we know that means HBO doesn't really care about how the premiere telecast of a particular episode fared. It cares more about all the aggregate viewing including DVR, encore telecasts and HBO Go.
True Blood's best ratings days may be behind it. But if that's the case it amounts to a big "so what?" If you're big into analyzing and/or lamenting the quality of the show -- other than telling you there's an excellent chance you'll be back lamenting the quality next year-- you've come to the wrong place.
Whatever you might think of the show's quality setting new ratings records is certainly not out of the question for True Blood. True Blood didn't set a new high with adults 18-49 in season four (yes, of course we know that doesn't matter to HBO) -- its series high in 18-49 was in its penultimate episode of season 3 on August 29, 2010 with a 3.2 rating. But it did set a new high in total viewers last season in its August 21, 2011 episode with 5.526 million viewers.
Here are the ratings for season four of True Blood:.
|Date||18-49 Rtg (Live+SD)||Viewers (Millions)|
|Sunday, June 26, 2011||3.0||5.424|
|Sunday, July 03, 2011||1.5||2.902|
|Sunday, July 10, 2011||2.8||5.043|
|Sunday, July 17, 2011||2.7||5.104|
|Sunday, July 24, 2011||2.8||5.261|
|Sunday, July 31, 2011||2.8||5.189|
|Sunday, August 07, 2011||2.9||5.143|
|Sunday, August 14, 2011||3.1||5.300|
|Sunday, August 21, 2011||3.1||5.526|
|Sunday, August 28, 2011||2.9||5.312|
|Sunday, September 04, 2011||2.4||4.391|
|Sunday, September 11, 2011||2.8||5.052|
Even if you don't love True Blood anymore the most likely scenario is that it will still be HBO's highest-rated show by a fairly wide margin. For comparison purposes Game of Thrones saw series highs in last week's season finale with 4.2 million viewers and a 2.2 adults 18-49 rating.
Of note last season True Blood got stung by both the July 4th holiday weekend and the Labor Day holiday weekend. In past seasons sometimes HBO decides to sit on the sidelines during holidays and not air new episodes. Without advertising and with encore telecasts, DVR, on demand and HBO Go, HBO really isn't worried about taking the ratings hit on the holidays. Presumably its scheduling is focused on maximize the True Blood benefit for its much lower-rated shows (Veep, Girls, Newsroom, etc)
This year July 4 falls in the middle of the week so the episode scheduled for Sunday July 1 probably won't take much of a hit. The way the schedule lines up, True Blood will finish up before Labor Day so that won't be an issue this year either. But the last Sunday in July and the first two Sundays in August it will have to contend with the Summer Olympics.