The ratings numbers are in for last night’s series premiere of Westworld on HBO, and they are good news for the pay cable channel. The sci-fi drama series drew 3.3 million total viewers across cable and digital platforms on Sunday night per Variety, which is the best performance of a series premiere for HBO in two years. The last time they saw numbers that high was for True Detective Season 1, which debuted in 2014 and went on to become a smashing success for the network.
These numbers are far higher than the last high-profile drama debut for HBO, which was the Martin Scorsese-produced Vinyl that debuted last fall. That heavily promoted series premiere debuted to just 1.4 million viewers, and as viewership failed to explode throughout the first season, HBO eventually opted not to continue on with a Season 2 and cancelled the music-centric series.
These early Westworld numbers, plus the heavy interest in the form of fan theories and guesstimations, bode well for the HBO series, which debuted after production delays pushed the show’s premiere back from 2015 to 2016. It deals with heavy issues like the ethical quandaries posed by artificial intelligence and moral dilemmas regarding violence and sex objects, but all wrapped up in a highly intriguing sci-fi premise that melds the genre with a Western atmosphere perfectly. The pilot did a fantastic job of hooking viewers, so now the task will be to keep those viewers engaged by offering up reveals and further deepening the characters as opposed to simply posing question after question.
While 3.3 million is good news for HBO, it’s below the 4.2 million viewers that Game of Thrones scored for its series premiere back in 2011. The two-time Best Drama Emmy winner scored a series-high 8.89 million viewers for its most recent season finale, but of course Game of Thrones began with beloved source material while Westworld—though inspired by a feature film of the same name—is much closer to a wholly original series.
There’s certainly time to grow even larger and HBO had a lot riding on the success of Westworld given that Game of Thrones is ending in 2018, so one imagines a Season 2 renewal isn’t too far off. For now, HBO has to be happy with these preliminary numbers.