Normally, the fact Westworld lost 19 percent of its audience going into just its fourth episode might be a cause for concern at HBO. But when executives look at Sunday night in full context, they might actually be happy – because it could’ve been far worse.
The futuristic theme park series attracted 1.7 million viewers Sunday night, according to Entertainment Weekly. It was just 10 percent, however, of the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead, which violently pushed its way to almost matching its series high of 17.2 million viewers set in 2014.
Westworld hasn’t yet received a second season renewal, but we’re not worried. The series premiere has now been seen by 12 million viewers, which is considered very high for HBO – that’s more than any episode of Game of Thrones during its first season.
And the third Westworld had the show’s largest overnight audience yet, 2.1 million viewers, bouncing back after the second episode aired against a presidential debate.
Of course, the viewership model for HBO is far different than AMC’s, which depends on commercial sales to fund The Walking Dead. HBO, instead, is more interested in how its original programming attracts subscribers either to its cable channel, or it’s over-the-top streaming service, HBO Now. Many times, HBO has continued to fund new shows, even if its viewership is low, as long as it helps create buzz for the network, and result in new (or retained) subscriptions.
The Walking Dead, despite already being popular, also had the added bonus of what was probably one of television’s most talked about season-ending cliffhangers ever. That drew fans (and conservative watchdog groups) to the series just to find out who was about to be killed, and who would survive.
The series scored well in key advertising demographics, according to The Hollywood Reporter, including adults 18 to 49, which doubled the same-day score of any broadcast scripted series this season. Viewership also jumped 20 percent from its sixth season finale, itself an amazing accomplishment.
Both shows air Sundays, with Westworld on HBO and The Walking Dead on AMC.
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