TV Long View: HBO's 'Euphoria' Audience Is Extremely Online

Almost two-thirds of the viewership for the series premiere to date has come on nonlinear platforms, outpacing the 'Game of Thrones' premiere in that regard.
Eddy Chen/HBO

The "It's not TV" portion of HBO's marketing slogan is proving especially true for the series premiere of Euphoria, with nonlinear viewing outpacing even Game of Thrones in terms of percentage gains.

The debut of the controversial show about teenagers — featuring numerous scenes of those characters (played by young adults) engaged in sex and drug use — drew 577,000 viewers for its initial showing, a decent but hardly world-beating start for an HBO series. Replays and streaming on Sunday pushed the first-night total to just under 1 million viewers, according to HBO. 

Since then, Euphoria has more than doubled its first-night audience and now stands at 2.3 million viewers through Thursday, a gain of 130 percent.

By comparison, the season premiere of Game of Thrones in April grew by 59 percent in a full week after it aired (17.4 million first-night viewers, including replays and streaming, to 27.7 million). A lower starting point means higher percentage gains are more likely, but even so, a greater portion of Euphoria's audience appears to be watching on digital platforms than did for the Game of Thrones premiere.

Live-plus-3 figures for Game of Thrones' premiere put the audience at 14.09 million, a little more than half of HBO's reported 27.7 million total for the first week. Euphoria, whose target audience likely skews younger than most HBO shows, is at 802,000 viewers in live-plus-3, meaning nearly 65 percent of its viewers have watched by other means. 

Early returns on Euphoria also put its post-premiere gains ahead of Big Little Lies and Barry.

Longer-tail figures for both episodes of Big Little Lies weren't available, but its same-night average across platforms is 2.25 million viewers, 55 percent ahead of the TV-only numbers (1.45 million). Euphoria's first-night bump was 73 percent.

The day after Barry's second-season finale, HBO said the show was averaging 4.8 million multiplatform viewers per episode (dating back to the day of its premiere). Its same-day, on-air average for the season was 1.6 million, so the show eventually grew to three times its initial audience.

Over four days (and again with the caveat that lower starting points can make for bigger percentage gains), Euphoria has nearly quadrupled its on-air debut (577,000 to 2.3 million).

It should be noted that streaming figures, from HBO and across the TV industry, come from the outlets themselves and are not easily verifiable via other sources. The pay cabler did say that the number of people who watched the premiere Sunday on HBO Now was the most for a series debut since Westworld in 2016. Since the first-night total was about 1 million viewers, and 577,000 watched the episode on air, the HBO Now figure would be at most 423,000 (and realistically less, since more than zero people likely viewed the episode via on-air replay or on HBO Go).

Euphoria is the first teen drama HBO has ever made, with a target audience younger than the average show on the channel. Its outsized streaming figures are not a huge surprise, given what's known about the way young adults consume media. Moreso than usual, the on-air ratings for the series aren't going to tell the whole story.

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