Showtime’s ‘Homeland’ Returns to Lower Ratings; FX’s ‘Strain’ Is Cable’s Top Sunday Drama

Showtime’s “Homeland” kicked off its fourth season Sunday with solid-enough albeit unspectacular same-night ratings.

According to Nielsen estimates, an average audience of 1.61 million viewers watched the 94-minute premiere of “Homeland” — down from the 1.88 million of its year-ago hourlong premiere and the 1.73 million for its second-season opener in 2012. A second airing at 11 p.m. drew 248,000 viewers, bringing the nightly total to about 1.86 million.

“Homeland’s” peak regular-timeslot audience came with last December’s third-season finale (2.38 million).

As a premium cabler, Showtime isn’t a slave to demos like ad-supported networks, but it’s worth noting that “Homeland” cooled considerably among adults under 50. Its 0.56 rating was down 29% from last year’s 0.79 and a big 40% lower than its third-season finale last December (0.94).

“Homeland” benefited from airing at 10 p.m. behind “Dexter” in its first two seasons, before moving to 9 p.m. without any lead-in support a year ago. Starting next week, new drama “The Affair” airs at 10 p.m., behind “Homeland.”

Also Sunday, FX’s “The Strain” wrapped its first season with a regular-timeslot audience of 2.09 million and a 0.97 rating in adults 18-49 — best in both categories for any Sunday cable drama. In the most recent “live plus-7” ratings available, “Strain” moved above the 4-million viewer total.

HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” building toward its series finale, averaged 1.94 million for its 10 p.m. airing on Sunday.

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