If you watched the first episode of The Newsroom, you probably stayed with it until last night’s season one finale. That’s our takeaway from just-released Nielsen numbers, which show Sunday’s Newsroom capper drew 2.3 million viewers at 10 p.m., up about 10 percent from the 2.1 million who tuned in to the show’s June premiere. Given the decidedly mixed buzz about Newsroom, these numbers are something of a victory for Sorkin and HBO: They seem to show a solid core audience who either love the show as-is or perhaps are at least willing to stick with it as it finds itself. What’s more, Newsroom is a monster hit when compared to HBO’s other big drama launch this year, Luck. The now-dead horse opera was down to roughly 400,000 live viewers for its swan song. Still, there’s also a glass-half-empty way of interpreting the numbers for Newsroom.
That less charitable analysis of Newsroom’s Nielsen performance is that the show doesn’t seem to be experiencing the buzz-fueled growth curve of some of HBO’s most successful dramas in recent years. Game of Thrones, for instance, debuted on par with Newsroom (2.2 million) but was reaching just more than 4 million fans by its freshman finale. Similarly, True Blood creeped on the air with 1.4 million but was already up to an average audience of 2.5 million viewers by its freshman finale, while The Sopranos started out with 3.5 million viewers in its first outing but climbed to more than 5 million by the time Tony nearly smothered his mom in the season one finale. That said, Newsroom did grow by 10 percent from pilot to finale. And it’s still possible, of course, that the show could expand its viewer base even more in season two. Nearly 7 million people are watching the show each week when you count in repeats on HBO, video on demand, and HBO GO viewing. Those audiences could switch to live viewing in season two, while new fans could be generated by folks who catch up on season one via marathon viewings over the next few months. Bottom line: Newsroom is a solid success for HBO, but it’s unlikely to join the network’s pantheon of signature shows.