HBO Has a Quiet Sunday With 'Newsroom' and 'Comeback' Returns

The cable network's November originals pull few viewers on premiere night
'The Comeback'

This past Sunday night wasn't exactly a rousing ratings success for HBO's latest block of originals. The pay cable network, facing unfortunate competition from the likes of The Walking Dead and Sunday Night Football, launched the final season of The Newsroom and the revival of long-absent comedy The Comeback.

Neither scored particularly high audience returns in their premiere telecasts. Aaron Sorkin's Newsroom, which previously benefited from time slot lead-ins from late HBO powerhouses True Blood and Boardwalk Empire, was off by more than 40 percent from its summer 2013 sophomore bow. It averaged 1.2 million viewers at 9 p.m.

Its closest cable comparison, Showtime's Homeland, fetched 1.5 million viewers during the same hour. And that comes during a season of live-plus-same-day ratings fatigue. The Claire Danes starrer, renewed for a fifth season, still grosses 6 million weekly viewers across platforms. How strong or soft of a note The Newsroom wraps on will be dictated by a similar cumed number, but the drama has been fairly steady since its 2012 launch first brought buzz and critical division.

Sunday also marked the return of The Comeback. Friends alum Lisa Kudrow's slight self-parody of a sitcom actress never matching her first success aired its first new episode since HBO canceled it back in 2005. The first run at 10 p.m. pulled in 300,000 viewers. (Its crossover appeal with Newsroom viewers apparently wasn't that strong.) The comedy improved by nearly another 100,000 with an encore that night, but it was still quite soft by HBO standards.

The Comeback, which premiered on a wildly different TV landscape nearly a decade ago, first opened to 1.5 million viewers. That, of course, was before streaming app HBO Go, rampant DVR use and TV audiences' general departure from live viewing. Stakes are much lower this go-round. Network execs, Kudrow and co-creator Michael Patrick King have been mum on the desire to continue the show past the current six-part revival. "Could it happen? Maybe," HBO programming exec Casey Bloys told reporters this summer. "It's really hard to say."

Sophomore comedy Getting On may not have come with the buzz of The Comeback, but it did perform a hair better in its first telecast, with 309,000 viewers.

One series not at all fatigued was Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. The news-comedy continues to draw a crowed at 11 p.m., regardless of how many people were watching the hour before. The Daily Show alum closed out his first season on HBO just shy of 800,000 live viewers. He's fetching more than 4 million each week, and that doesn't even count his substantial YouTube presence.

Live viewing matters little to HBO, which has seen even its biggest hit boasting one of TV's most fractured audiences, and November premieres have typically been more modest than the network's boom-time of the spring and summer.