‘Black Sails’ Is Most-Watched Series Debut Yet for Starz

Solid linear tune-in, aggressive online sampling campaign bring pirate drama's early total to 3.5 million viewers

Michael Bay’s pirate drama “Black Sails” is off to a good ratings start, becoming the most-watched series premiere in the history of Starz.

Black Sails” drew about 850,000 viewers for its regular-timeslot telecast Saturday, and nearly 1.7 million watched the night’s combined telecasts, according to Nielsen.

Overall, more than 2.6 million watched the series premiere during its opening weekend on the network’s linear channels, surpassing the 2.6 million premiere-weekend tally last August for “The White Queen,” which had been the most popular new series/miniseries premiere to date.

As part of a promotional push to ensure as many people sample the series as possible, Starz made the pilot episode of “Black Sails” available for free on platforms like iTunes, You Tube and Amazon on Jan. 18, one week before its premiere date.

Starz said that early reporting of on-demand, online platforms and affiliate linear airings yielded an additional 900,000 viewers to date, pushing the “Black Sails” audience to 3.5 million thus far. Additional multiplex repeats, extended DVR playback numbers and viewership on other platforms will only pad the total in the coming weeks.

Starz CEO Chris Albrecht has made original programming a priority since the pay cable group became a solo public company last year. The 10-episode second season of David S. Goyer’s “Da Vinci’s Demons” will debut on March 22.

“Black Sails” is executive produced by Bay and his Platinum Dunes partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (“The Purge,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”). Showrunner and exec producer Jonathan Steinberg is the creator of “Jericho” and “Human Target.”

Series centers on Captain Flint (Toby Stephens) and his crew, taking place 20 years prior to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic “Treasure Island.” Starz has already picked up the series for a second season.

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