At first thought it might not come as a surprise that Showtime has renewed The Borgias since The Tudors ran for four series and was very popular. However the numbers are not so convincing. While most of the USA’s television world abides by 18-49 demographic one must keep in mind that Showtime is not an advertiser-supported channel but a subscription-supported channel.
Here is a little table of the first-showing total viewers of each episode of The Borgias in Canada and the USA.
|No.||Episode||Air Date||Canadian viewers||U.S. viewers|
|1||The Poisoned Chalice||3 April 2011||0.575 million||1.062 million|
|3||The Moor||10 April 2011||0.285 million||0.683 million|
|4||Lucrezia’s Wedding||17 April 2011||0.247 million||?|
|5||The Borgias in Love||24 April 2011||0.258 million||0.778 million|
What does the above table tell us? First off, what it doesn’t tell us. The Borgias was the most watched series première on Showtime in the past seven years. Though the numbers of episode 4 are lacking apparently the series is out-pacing The Tudors. What is also not told by those numbers is how The Borgias stands up against other historical/fiction shows on other US pay-nets. starz recently showed the original mini-series Spartacus: Gods Of The Arena and it averaged 1.285 million viewers for the initial showing of each episode. Their new show Camelot is also performing better than The Borgias in their initial showings. The fourth episode of Camelot had 0.988 million viewers on 15 April. Over on HBO the historical fantasy series Game Of Thrones premièred Sunday last week with 2.222 million viewers (episode two data should be available later today). Game Of Thrones was renewed for a second season before the series première.
Ok. So all of those channels are subscriber-based. How many subscribers do they each have? In a report from The Hollywood Reporter from 14 October 2010 Showtime had 18.2 million, starz had 17.3 million, and HBO had 28.6 million. Showtime and starz were on an upward trend and HBO was losing subscribers. For having more subscribers than starz one would think the best show the Showtime offers should be drawing more viewers than starz but no. At least for original showings; subsequent repeats that night and throughout the week and online and everything else has apparently pushed the series premeire up to some 3.71 million viewers in the USA. It is probable that Spartacus and Game Of Thrones experienced similar increase in viewers with repeats and online viewing added in.
The president of Entertainment at Showtime, David Nevins, said, “The Borgias has become Sunday night appointment viewing for a broad swath of our subscribers.” With about 1 viewer for every 18 active accounts the company has that is not something one would typically call “a broad swath”. It is little more than 5%, assuming each home that has Showtime has only one inhabitant.
Over in Canada the numbers are just a little more impressive for this Canadian-Hungarian-Irish show. The show is seen on the analogue basic cable channel Bravo! which means anyone with a simple cable or satellite service probably has this channel available to them. The problem with this is that Bravo! is not somewhere one would normally look for programming like this. The Tudors was on CBC, the public broadcaster in Canada. Still, for a Canadian cable channel on a Sunday night getting over half a million viewers is outright impressive. The show has settled down to somewhere about one quarter of a million viewers, which is still a very good number made even more impressive when you realise that it is up against the Canadian showing of Muse’s much publicised The Kennedys on History Television (which had 0.889 million viewers on 10 April and 0.530 million on 17 April).
It is safe to say that as a percentage of the population more Canadians have Bravo! than Americans have Showtime. The population of Canada is about 1/9 that of the USA these days. Using some very rough estimating The Borgias comes out vastly more popular in Canada than it is in the USA. So where is the announcement from Bell Media about the renewal of the show? There isn’t one, yet. We’re still waiting on their commitment to the next instalments of the British and Canadian Being Human shows.
Overall, in the American subscription-supported television contest The Borgias is not the worst but it is not the best either. So, how much did it cost to get elevated to a second series? Does it really matter? The House of Borja rules again! Production on series two will begin in a few weeks with broadcast sometime in 2012. Now if only Bravo! would be made into an HD channel it would be worthy of more smiley faces.