Sky Atlantic's launch-night performance split opinion; some thought 438,000 people watching Boardwalk Empire was a decent figure considering the fact SkyA's a channel exclusive to Sky's 10m customers. I can see that point of view. I guess I just expected more of the potential viewers to be watching, considering Sky's huge marketing push: billboards everywhere, Dustin Hoffman advertising it, Boardwalk Empire's ritzy London premiere, etc. It couldn't have escaped your attention that Sky Atlantic was launching on 1 February, so why didn't more of Sky's own customers give Boardwalk Empire a look-see?
Anyway, how has SkyA's other offerings fared this inaugural week? Well, the UK premiere of Entourage's seventh season delivered 18,000 viewers for episode 1, rising to 27,000 for episode 2 immediately after. Elsewhere, Six Feet Under (which is being re-run from the start) attracted 53,000 viewers on Thursday night. Both those numbers aren't great, I think we can agree.
While nobody expects Six Feet Under to be a ratings juggernaut, because it's an old show that's been available on DVD for years now, brand new Entourage is more typical of what Atlantic's going to be offering people every week, in-between its major exclusives like Boardwalk Empire, the upcoming Game Of Thrones, and return of Mad Men.
Entourage was averaging 200,000 on ITV2, which is a rating Sky probably won't get close to because Atlantic doesn't have the reach of a channel available to all the UK's digital customers.
Undoubtedly, Sky aren't expecting ratings to be comparable to what shows previously shown on ITV and the BBC were managing, but I still have to wonder how long Sky will claim that's not too much of a concern for them. My guess is they're testing the water: seeing how well SkyA can do amongst its own customer base, and how many new subscribers it can lure in as a result of the marketing and PR. I mean, bloggers like myself are talking about the channel a lot, which certainly has some affect. But give it 6 months or a year, and if SkyA's biggest hits are still struggling to break the 500,000 watermark, I wouldn't be surprised if Sky give in and let their rivals have access to Atlantic. Virgin Media alone would boost the potential audience by 3.7m.