What ‘True Detective’ Ratings Mean for HBO and Network TV

HBO's 'True Detective' wrapped on Sunday with impressive numbers, but it's what those numbers mean that tell a more interesting story.

Mar 11, 2014 at 10:24AM

If you've seen True Detective on HBO (a subsidiary of Time Warner (NYSE:TWX)), you know it's no mystery why the show is so successful. But Sunday night the series hit a new ratings high and at the same time literally (temporarily) broke HBO's signature app ... not bad for a rookie series.

Overwhelming evidence

Truedetective

(Credit: HBO)

True Detective launched in January to 2.3 million viewers and over the next few weeks built that to an average haul of around 11 million a week when all avenues of viewing were counted. The anthology series' finale soared and took in 3.5 million viewers in its initial airing and nearly 5 million including replays. Overall, Detective looks set to become HBO's second most-watched freshman series of all time, just behind Six Feet Under.

For those keeping score that leap in live viewers from premiere to finale is about a 50% increase, which is remarkable for a cable freshman series. In fact, demand was so high that HBO GO, the network's streaming service, temporarily crashed leading viewers to take their aggression out through social media.

Industry impact

Truedetective

(Credit: HBO)

I've already written about why True Detective was a hit for HBO, but Sunday night's numbers set up a new discussion about what it means not just for the network, but for the industry overall. First, it shows executives that people would much rather watch programming on their mobile devices than on an actual TV. Granted the success of Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime were precursors to this fact, but for so many HBO subscribers to opt to watch a weekly episodic series on another screen sends a message.

Remember HBO only offers the GO service to its subscribers, so most people had the choice to watch on cable, but opted not to go the traditional route. Other sites have also surmised that part of that the bump could have come from viewers who couldn't access HBO GO because of the crash and were forced to watch on TV instead, which is a valid point. But the fact remains those same viewers were eventually going to tune in, some just didn't have a choice as to how.

'American Cable Story'

The other industry trend the numbers show is that it backs up the "anthology" model made popular by FX's American Horror Story. It's not fair to compare numbers to numbers in this case because one's on cable and one's on pay TV, but the overall result is the same -- audiences tuned in and stayed invested throughout.

The allure of it being a limited-run "event" mini-series mixed with the presence of top-tier leads Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrleson made viewers flock to the series. The fact is that if you were even remotely interested in the drama, you had to watch in a certain timeframe or risk being left out of the conversation, sentenced to a term of dodging potential spoilers. Now again it didn't matter how you watched, just that you watched. The ratings still support this type of program structure and audiences seem willing to invest in a show with a definite end point and a rotating cast.

Even though HBO hasn't officially renewed the show, its production team is already mapping out possibilities for a sophomore run. It's possible executives want to wait until they have interest from new "A-level" leads before making anything official, but expect that to happen sooner than later. Regardless with these numbers and this buzz, expect True Detective to be back on the case in 2015.

In the meantime, leave a comment and join the conversation. How did you watch True Detective's finale and why did you choose that method? Who should they cast for a potential second season? Let us know.

HBO doesn't have to be the only beneficiary of this new way of programming ... you can as well. The key to profiting off this type of analysis is to invest in companies you have a genuine interest in and then turn those industry insights into a strong portfolio through smart and steady investing. If you're interested in learning how to make some of the top entertainment properties work for you, make sure to check out The Motley Fool's free special report, which is an essential guide to investing. You can click here to get your copy today – and start profiting off the areas you enjoy reading about the most.

 

Brett Gold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


Compare Brokers