HBO's In Treatment Premiere Wanting for Ratings Therapy

Low Numbers for Premiere Monday Night, But Pay Network Has a Plan

HBO executives might be calling their shrinks Wednesday. The pay cable network’s new therapy series, In Treatment, premiered to the lowest numbers ever for one of its originals Monday night -- 446,000. That’s about one-half of what its last original, hour-long relationship drama Tell Me You Love Me, premiered to in September.

Some analysis of In Treatment’spremiere number, however, showed that it’s not the train wreck it may seem.

First, the 9:30 p.m. Monday premiere was unorthodox for HBO, which usually premieres big series on Sundays. Viewers who’d heard about In Treatment may have looked to Sunday to catch it. Tell Me, for example, premiered that night, as did Flight of the Conchords, which drew about 1 million viewers to its premiere but had the benefit of a lead-in from established half-hour Curb Your Enthusiasm. The network has reserved Monday nights in the past for dramas that already had hit seasons under their belts, like Big Love and Six Feet Under.

In Treatment’s entire scheduling play was deliberately atypical on HBO’s part. The series stars Gabriel Byrne as a therapist whose intense patients give him cause for therapy of his own, and HBO is running new episodes each weeknight for nine weeks straight, devoting the same night each week to the same patient and Fridays to Byrne’s character’s own therapy sessions.

Given the scheduling oddity, the network made an ambitious play to pick up viewers by offering the series on platforms other than just its main cable channel. The entire week’s worth of new episodes goes up on, HBO On Demand and iTunes each Monday. Given the show’s intense drama, not to mention the dearth of broadcast scripted dramas given the writers’ strike, viewers may be tempted to watch In Treatment episodes in batches on those other platforms.

HBO always cites cumulative premiere numbers for its shows, adding up multiple plays the episode receives over the course of a week, rather than focusing on just the premiere numbers. Following that method, Tell Me premiered to 965,000 viewers Sept. 9 but averaged 3.8 million with eight additional plays over the next week. The series also picked up more than 500,000 more viewers on video-on-demand over the course of its run.

VOD viewing and multiple plays will undoubtedly boost In Treatment’s average numbers, as the critical acclaim the series received likely will, as well. The network launched a series of online applications, like a Facebook group for the show, to help fuel online buzz.

The show is adapted from an Israeli series that captivated the nation over its run. HBO will run original episodes for nine weeks straight.

Find out what critics thought of In Treatment at BC Review.