Salem Scares Up Big Numbers for WGN America

First stab at scripted development draws a crowd Sunday night

The series premiere of WGN America’s first original scripted series, Salem, scared up some big numbers Sunday night, averaging 1.52 million viewers and a 0.5 rating among adults 18-49.

Per Nielsen, the 10 p.m. debut effectively septupled WGNA’s first-quarter prime-time average (218,000 total viewers), while improving on the network’s typical demo performance by a factor of six. In the period spanning Dec. 20, 2013 to March 30, 2014, WGNA averaged just 106,000 members of the dollar demo per night; last night’s premiere of Salem drew 647,000 adults 18-49.

When two successive encore presentations of Salem were rolled into the actual 10 p.m. premiere numbers, WGNA came away with 2.21 million viewers and 886,000 adults 18-49, good for a 0.7 rating. 

“We are thrilled with the audience turnout and reaction to Salem,” said Matt Cherniss, president and general manager, WGN America and Tribune Studios. “These numbers far exceeded our expectations, especially given that we are currently only in 72 million homes.”

WGN America covers 62.3 percent of the U.S. and is available via a single feed, which makes for an early West Coast premiere (7 p.m. PDT).

A revisitation of the witch trials that took place in Northeastern Massachusetts in 1692-93, Salem stars Janet Montgomery (late of CBS’ Made in Jersey), Shane West (the CW’s Nikita) and Ashley Madekwe (ABC’s Revenge). The series marks WGNA’s first crack at developing original scripted fare and will be followed in July by the atomic-age drama Manhattan.

Among the off-network series WGNA carries are Matlock, Rules of Engagement, In the Heat of the Night and Walker, Texas Ranger. (A repeat of In the Heat of the Night was WGNA’s second-biggest draw for the week of April 14, delivering 695,000 viewers in the Saturday 1 p.m. time slot.)

Elsewhere, BBC America on low-HUT level Saturday night bowed the second season of its critically acclaimed science-fiction strip, Orphan Black. At 9 p.m., the Tatiana Maslany vehicle delivered 620,000 total viewers and 391,000 adults 18-49—which translates to a 0.3 rating. (Per BBCA, that’s double the show’s Season 1 average.)

When combined with the deliveries for a midnight and a 3 a.m. encore, the Orphan Black season opener drew 785,000 total viewers.

While the addition of WGNA to the scripted series landscape only serves to further jam up an already hectic Sunday night programming schedule, HBO remains the team to beat. Last night’s installment of Game of Thrones drew 6.59 million viewers, trailing only the Season 4 premiere for bragging rights to the show’s most-watched hour. A pair of encores swelled that number to 8.2 million total viewers.

Thrones delivered a 3.5 in the 18-49 demo, making it the second highest-rated episode since the April 6 season opener drew a 3.6 rating. Once again, the premium-cable telecast was the top-rated show on television, eclipsing the likes of CBS’ The Good Wife (1.3) and NBC’s Believe (1.1)

At 10 p.m., HBO’s renewed comedy Silicon Valley drew 1.62 million viewers and a 0.8 rating, while lead-out Veep delivered 775,000 total viewers.

Publish date: April 21, 2014 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT