Opposite the Oscars, Showtime’s “Homeland” hit a series low in the ratings last week, drawing just under 900,000 viewers, which was a tad less than the pilot back in 2011. However, this one-time Emmy winner of Best Drama Series rebounded enormously this week, with more than half a million more folks tuning in.
It wasn’t the only program to make staggering gains this Sunday. As you can see from the table below, premium cable fans disproportionately watched the Oscars on February 26.
“Big Little Lies” lost more than half of its audience from the Sunday before the Oscars but got almost all of them back this week. Its lead-out “Girls” fared slightly worse, as it was still off by more than 100,000 from its pre-Oscar audience. Likewise for “Crashing,” which follows “Girls.” Each of those comedies shed more than 300,000 viewers on Oscar Sunday. However, those episodes of these three shows were available for both streaming and on-demand viewing before the Oscars.
While Showtime had not done that for “Homeland,” it had for its lead-out, “Billions.” That might explain why “Homeland” lost only 15% of its previous week’s viewers on Oscar Sunday while “Billions” was off by one third. As with “Homeland,” this week’s episode of “Billions” outpaced the one from the week before the Oscars.
Losing audience to the Oscars isn’t surprising, but it is remarkable that this phenomenon was relatively limited to Showtime and HBO’s prestige programming, which tends to contend at TV awards shows like the Emmys. It figures that premium cable subscribers would care more about entertainment awards than the average TV viewer.
More populist fare went unaffected by competition from the Oscars. The highest-rated scripted show on television, “The Walking Dead” actually fell 2% in viewers this week; it did better opposite the Oscars last week. The highest-rated reality show that counter-programmed against the Oscars was the Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America.” It was likewise down slightly this week, by 4%.
CBS, Fox and NBC forewent first-run programming opposite the Oscars on ABC. An apples-to-apples comparison can be made because Fox aired reruns of “Bob’s Burgers” both weeks in the same hour. Ratings were fairly consistent; it rose 4% this week.
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