Penny Dreadful, the violent, Victorian-era horror series that debuted Sunday night, registered more than 1.4 million viewers for pay cable network Showtime, exceeding the number for the premiere of the hit Showtime series Homeland in 2011.
But Showtime also made the Penny Dreadful premiere available online two weeks in advance of Sunday night’s premiere, on the Showtime site as well as on YouTube. About 900,000 viewers watched it that way, bringing the total viewership of the premiere episode of the show starring Eva Green and Josh Hartnett to 2.3 million.
Of the 1.443 million who watched Penny Dreadful on Sunday night, either in its original time slot, in a later encore showing, on demand or through the Showtime Anytime app, 62 percent fell into the coveted 18-49 age demographic. Though as a premium cable service that depends on subscription fees rather than advertising, those numbers mean less than they would for a basic cable or over-the-air network.
Nonetheless, Penny Dreadful pulled in the highest proportion of viewers in the 18-49 range for any premiere on the network since the Showtime’s staple serial killer drama Dexter bowed in 2006, with a 65 percent viewership in the 18-49 range.
When it aired in its scheduled time slot of 10 pm Sunday, the Penny Dreadful premiere attracted 872,000 viewers, a significant drop from the premiere of the Liev Schreiber-starring crime drama Ray Donovan on Showtime in June 2013.
Penny Dreadful was created by 52-year-old playwright and screenwriter John Logan, who was twice-nominated for Oscars in 2000 and 2004 for his part in the screenplays to the films Gladiator and The Aviator.
Sam Mendes, Oscar-winning director of American Beauty who also directed the latest James Bond film Skyfall, acts as executive producer on Penny Dreadful.
The show takes its title from the lurid fiction magazine popular in the Britain on the late 19th century, which featured “dreadful” sensationalistic tales serializes over a number of weeks, with each issue selling for a penny.