Strong start for HBO’s ‘True Blood’

Despite facing NBA Finals, vampire drama draws 5.1 million viewers

Undaunted by facing the NBA Finals, HBO’s “True Blood” launched its third season to impressive numbers Sunday.

Nielsen estimates that the vampire drama sunk its fangs into 5.1 million viewers — up sharply from the 3.7 million who tuned in on premiere night a year ago and on par with its second-season finale from last September (5 million).

And as was the case in its first two seasons, “Blood” performed especially well among adults under 50. Its 2.9 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 ranked ninth among all primetime programs last week , even though HBO is only available in roughly 30% of homes.

Among scripted programs, only Fox’s “Glee” fared better last week, suggesting that “Blood” could emerge as summer’s top drama draw among young adults.

The show again exhibited a good gender balance, with 53% of its 18-49 aud comprised of women. And among adults under 35, the split was 50-50.

It’s a testament to the series that so many of its fans watched on air Sunday — opposite a hugely popular NBA game — since the show is available at other times via the pay cabler’s linear replays and On Demand. HBO notes that the second season of “True Blood” averaged a gross audience of 12.6 million viewers (on-air, DVR and On Demand) even though its 9 p.m. premiere averaged 4.3 million.

On Sunday, a second airing of “True Blood” at 11 p.m. drew 1.3 million viewers — likely picking up some auds who had watched the NBA Finals.

The basketball game on ABC drew a big 18.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched summer telecast (excluding the Olympics) in five years.

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