Early ratings for True Detective are in, and the Nielsen numbers suggest audiences are still plenty interested in HBO’s crime anthology series. Sunday’s two-hour premiere of the Mahershala Ali–led season was watched by an average of 1.3 million same-day linear viewers, with 1.4 million tuning in for episode one and 1.2 million for episode two. Time-shifted viewing has substantially improved the show’s audience, too: The first episode has already added nearly 1 million more viewers via replays and streaming, putting its total gross audience at 2.3 million viewers as of Monday morning.
To the surprise of absolutely no one who’s paid attention to linear ratings in recent years, the same-day figures for the premiere came in below both seasons one (2.3 million in 2014) and two (3.2 million in 2015). But that was expected: Linear audiences for both broadcast and cable have fallen dramatically in the three and a half years since the HBO drama last aired an original episode, with viewers shifting to streaming and VOD platforms to catch up. In terms of linear ratings, Sunday’s numbers put True Detective right on par with HBO’s other big limited series of late, coming in just ahead of last year’s Sharp Objects (1.3 million) and 2017’s Big Little Lies (1.1 million) openers. True Detective also did substantially better than any other recent episode of an HBO drama or comedy, save big-budget blockbusters Game of Thrones and Westworld. The most recent season of True Detective saw its average episode audience grow to over 10 million viewers over the course of a month. Given how many more HBO subscribers are watching via nonlinear methods now versus 2015, it’s not out of the question that season three could come close to matching that figure when the network release so-called cume averages in the next few weeks.