Epic series' bow falls short of cabler's recent debuts

HBO’s “Rome” got off to a solid start Sunday night, averaging 3.8 million viewers during the 9 p.m. premiere.

First installment of the $100 million epic posted 9.1 household rating and a 13 share in HBO’s universe. In terms of overall viewership, bow falls short of recent drama series debuts “Carnivale” (5.3 million) and “Deadwood” (5.8 million). Those shows, however, followed established HBO hits “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,” respectively, while “Rome” did not.

In addition, tally for “Rome” is on par with the recent series finale of “Six Feet Under” (3.9 million) and bests the second-season bow of “Deadwood” (2.8 million).

Twelve-seg skein is part of an expansive multiplay strategy in which the first three episodes of “Rome” will air seven days a week on at least one of HBO’s digital platforms.

“Rome” also is being made available around the clock through HBO’s on-demand service. Cabler will even premiere the third episode on VOD ahead of its linear bow during a free weekend preview Sept. 5.

Strategy gives viewers who may have been interested in both “Rome” and MTV’s “Video Music Awards” — the No. 1 program among young adults for the night — several other opportunities to catch the first episode of “Rome.”

Pay cabler execs insist they are satisfied with the first-night results, further emphasizing the importance of a telecast’s cumulative rating — the sum of a week’s worth of plays — as opposed to just the premiere play.

Showtime likewise has been focused on cume ratings and is aggressively programming frosh comedies “Weeds” and “Barbershop,” airing them on alternating nights seven days a week.

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