It's the pay cabler's third-best drama bow since 2008

It drew a bigger crowd than most cable newscasts. HBO’s much-discussed Aaron Sorkin drama “The Newsroom” opened to 2.1 million viewers in its premiere telecast on Sunday.

Skein, which stars Jeff Daniels as a cable news anchor working with a new producing team trying to raise journalistic standards, brought in a cume of 2.7 million viewers over two back-to-back airings of the 75-minute pilot starting at 10 p.m.

“The Newsroom” had a lead-in boost from “True Blood,” which garnered 4.7 million viewers. Even with the dropoff, “Newsroom” saw HBO’s third-best drama premiere in four years. Only 2010 entries “Boardwalk Empire” (4.8 million) and “Game of Thrones” (2.2 million) saw better numbers. A second-season renewal is imminent.

Beginning today through July 23, HBO is looking to add even more viewers by offering the pilot to nonsubscribers at no charge on HBO.com, YouTube and various free on-demand platforms.

The numbers for the opener also rep a huge improvement over those for HBO’s most recent drama premiere, “Luck,” which drew a disappointing 1.1 million in its first showing and was later canceled after three of the horses died during production.

“Newsroom” is a high priority for HBO given the Sorkin pedigree and the amount of attention the show has received, particularly in media circles.

There was little broadcast competition Sunday night, giving HBO its best chance to draw eyeballs. Pay cabler was fortunate that the NBA Finals on ABC ended after five games; otherwise it would have faced competition for male viewers.

“Newsroom” co-stars Emily Mortimer, Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Sam Waterston, John Gallagher Jr. and Olivia Munn.

Sorkin, Scott Rudin and Alan Poul exec produce.

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