Viewership for HBO's `The Wire' declines

January 24, 2008|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Sun Television Critic

The audience for HBO's Baltimore-based crime drama The Wire continued to shrink last week, dropping to a season low of 846,000 viewers.

That is down 339,000 viewers from the previous week's audience of 1.185 million - a loss of 29 percent.

While HBO attributed the drop to competition from the New York Giants/Green Bay Packers football game, the cumulative audience for the series is also down this season - 23 percent from last year, according to figures provided by the cable channel.

Cumulative audience includes all viewers for every play and replay of an episode on any HBO channel.

Last year, an average of 4.4 million viewers watched each episode of the series on one of the HBO channels. This year, the season opener was seen by a cumulative audience of about 3.4 million viewers, according to Jeff Cusson, an HBO spokesman.

(The season opener, which aired on Jan. 6, is the only episode for which complete play and replay ratings are yet available, Cusson said.)

The news is better when it comes to the number of fans who are ordering The Wire from HBO On Demand, but so far the gains made in this realm have not offset the loss in cumulative viewing.

To date, 547,000 orders have been placed for episode 1 On Demand. Last year, 188,000 orders were placed for the first episode On Demand, according to Cusson.

However, HBO first introduced the On Demand option for The Wire with the first episode of Season 4, so fans were less likely to be familiar with it.

Despite the ratings decline, Cusson predicted that The Wire will ultimately match last year's performance by the end of its 10-episode run.

"HBO expects the show to be within the same area [on audience size] as last season," he said.

david.zurawik@baltsun.com

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