EXCLUSIVE: There’s a lot of anecdotes about what a global sensation Chernobyl has become for HBO, but like the fallout from the horrific nuclear plant eruption of 1986, it is the numbers that tell the real story.
And unlike the initially suppressed devastation that still leaves parts of the Ukraine soaked in radiation and put Europe under threat over 30 years ago, the data for the Jared Harris, Emily Watson and Stellan Skarsgård-led miniseries are nothing but good. In fact, heading into Emmy voting, Chernobyl’s numbers are dragon slaying and nearly up to that of a certain Arkansas murder mystery.
To be specific, having seen an almost uninterrupted viewership climb from its May 6 debut to its soul crushing June 3 finale, the widely acclaimed Craig Mazin-created historical drama has emerged with a cumulative audience of 8 million so far.
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That’s better than the 7.3 million cumulative viewership that the Amy Adams-led Sharp Objects had over its eight-episode run last summer. While still out of the zone of the 8.5 million that the seven episodes of the first season of Big Little Lies snared in early 2017, Chernobyl is now poised right behind and may even soon surpass the 8.1 million cumulative audience of the eight-episode third season of True Detective.
And remember, all those high profile shows to which comparisons are being made air on TV’s big night of Sundays.
Out weekly, the five episodes of Chernobyl were on HBO’s relatively new expansion territory of Mondays which was previous a dumping ground for toxic shows. In that context, looking at the results of the Kary Antholis-backed Chernobyl will surely impress the brass at WarnerMedia, who are marching the once Richard Plepler-run premium cabler into more programming over more nights to bulk up inventory for future streaming services.
What might really impress John Stankey and the AT&T crowd is that blast from the past Chernobyl and its vision of the dying days of the USSR has deeply planted its flag in the present and future way people watch the small screen in 2019.
When you break down the numbers of Chernobyl’s dedicated viewership, it’s 35% linear, 13% OD and a massive 52% from HBO Go, HBO Now and other OTT platforms. That last number is the Ace in hand for HBO and a record breaker too. No other HBO series has ever topped 50% in its digital contribution. As you would expect, the previous record holder was Game of Thrones but that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss EP’d Emmy winning blockbuster never made it over 46%, even during its recent eighth and final season.
“Chernobyl shows that a great series will find an audience,” HBO Entertainment boss Casey Bloys said to Deadline today of the remarkable numbers the limited series set in what is now the Ukraine has hit and exceed. “Could not be prouder and so happy the viewers seeked it out on our platforms,” the exec added.
Having said that, not everyone loves Chernobyl, at least not in the Kremlin. Swinging a sickle wide, Russian state TV is planning its own version of the story where a CIA operative is at the heart of the core meltdown. On this side of what used to be the Iron Curtain, obvious Emmy contender Chernobyl has been perched as the top of IMDB’s all-time TV rankings with a 9.7 out of 10 in the last few days – which I get as I named the series the show you had to watch in my review of May 2.
At the same time, Chernobylmania caused creator Mezin took to social media on Tuesday to caution against misery tourism. Visits to the still maintain Exclusion Zone around the former rector and the ghost city of Pripyat has surged into the double digits since Chernobyl debuted on HBO and Sky UK.
It’s wonderful that #ChernobylHBO has inspired a wave of tourism to the Zone of Exclusion. But yes, I’ve seen the photos going around.
If you visit, please remember that a terrible tragedy occurred there. Comport yourselves with respect for all who suffered and sacrificed.
— Craig Mazin (@clmazin) June 11, 2019