Comedy Specs Help HBO Start Year With A Bang

Home Box Office says its ratings surged last month, with primetime ratings up an average 18% and total day ratings rising 7% from those in January 1990.

According to Nielsen info reported by HBO, primetime ratings and shares were up in subscriber homes from an 8.2 rating/12 share average last January to 9.7/14 this January.

Averages for the total day increased from 4.2/12 in January 1990 to 4.5/11 last month.

Ratings for theatricals, which still account for 70% of HBO’s schedule, are going down in primetime, while original programming is attracting increased viewing.

January 1991 numbers were sparked by two “HBO Comedy Hour” programs: “Roseanne Barr Live From Trump Castle” and “Sinbad: Brain Damaged.”

According to Nielsen, the Jan. 5 debut of “Roseanne Barr Live” beat ABC, CBS and NBC in HBO homes, scoring a 17.6/26. It ranked as the pay-tv service’s most-watched comedy special by a single performer.

The Jan. 12 premiere of “Sinbad” also beat the three broadcast nets in HBO homes with a 15.9/24.

Also boosting the service’s numbers last month was the premiere of “Prison Stories: Women On The Inside,” another program that outdrew the broadcast nets in the HBO universe, with a 15.8/24.

HBO attributes the increases to its original programming.

Neither Bridgett Potter, HBO senior v.p. in charge of made-fors, nor research v.p. Bob Maxwell, is willing to attribute audience gains to HBO’s uninterrupted entertainment/documentary fare, which offers an escape from Persian Gulf war news.

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