TV Ratings: HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ Is a Word-of-Mouth Hit

Kate Aurthur

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You may have noticed on your Twitter feeds Sunday nights that “Watchmen” appears to be popular. Yet the innovative, critically praised HBO drama series is an actual hit, not merely a zeitgeist talker. Through its seven episodes so far, the show, created and executive produced by Damon Lindelof, is drawing an average of 7.1 million viewers across HBO’s linear channels and streaming platforms. According to HBO’s tallies, “Watchmen” is premium cable’s most popular new series of 2019, and HBO’s most-watched new series since “Big Little Lies.”

While “Watchmen” is no “Game of Thrones” — as we knew, we would never see its like again — its linear ratings are perfectly fine for a cable show in the Peak TV era. On Sunday night, Episode 7, “An Almost Religious Awe,” drew 779,000 viewers in Nielsen’s Live+Same Day ratings, the show’s highest numbers since the premiere (799,000 viewers). Across HBO platforms Sunday, that number grew to 1.2 million viewers.

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HBO is a high-end brand that’s now at the center of the streaming wars. And that will only increase as the network becomes a key feeder to HBO Max — parent company WarnerMedia’s streaming service — when it launches in May. HBO’s ratings have always been difficult to quantify because of its many channels, but since the launch of HBO Go in 2015, the network also reports its digital numbers — which streaming services do not.

According to HBO, the Sunday night premiere ratings for “Watchmen” account for only a little more than 10% of the show’s audience; the viewership for the series’ first episode stands at 9.6 million total viewers. As word of mouth builds before the Dec. 15 season finale — HBO2 will be marathoning the show this Sunday and next Sunday, and the whole season on Dec. 21 and Jan. 1 — that number will only grow.

Now there’s only one question for “Watchmen” fans: When will the show be renewed?

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