January 30, 2012 2:28pm PT by Michael O'Connell
'Spartacus: Vengeance' Premiere Tops 'Arena' Prequel, Delivers Starz Sampling Record
Spartacus did not suffer from its recent recasting.
Vengeance, the follow-up to Blood and Sand and prequel God of the Arena, delivered nearly 1.4 million viewers during its premiere broadcast on Friday night. Adding 677,000 from the ensuing encore at 11:00 p.m., the series brought in 2.1 million viewers for the night.
PHOTOS: 'Spartacus: Vengeance' Who's Who
That total tops the cumulative 1.9 million Friday debut debut of Arena, a prequel designed to keep the series running without late star Andy Whitfield, by 10 percent. Comparing it to the original Blood And Sand, the combined broadcasts mark a 90 percent jump from the franchise's original debut.
Friday's Spartacus: Vengeance premiere was the first episode with Liam McIntyre taking on the role of Spartacus. Whitfield, who died of lymphoma in September, starred in the original series and had intended to rejoin after Gods of the Arena before he was benched by cancer treatment.
Adding to the success of Vengeance, Starz cites a growth in online and on-demand sampling. A reported record of 1.4 million views of the episode through the weekend put the preliminary total (before Sunday encores) past 4 million viewers.
Regardless of any additional views, the numbers are a triumph for the network. Kelsey Grammer's Golden Globe winning series Boss, a critical success, debuted in October to 1.72 million on its premiere night after Starz had already decided to renew it.