Showtime may still be asking itself “Who Is America?” The new Sacha Baron Cohen series premiered on Sunday night with just 327,000 viewers in its normal linear time slot.
That was below its lead-in, “The Affair” (538,000 viewers), but better than its companion series, “Our Cartoon President” (186,000). The linear run of “Who Is America?” may have been impacted by Showtime’s move to premiere the series early digitally. “Who Is America?” was actually available to viewers via online, on demand and streaming as of midnight the previous evening, giving viewers almost a full day before its airing. “Who Is America?” will see a bit of a bump once DVR and VOD viewing numbers are included.
Per Showtime, “Who Is America?” aired five times on the network, adding up to 702,000 viewers; add 301,000 more streaming and on demand viewers, and it says the total audience catching the premiere is just over 1 million.
Of course, for a premium service that doesn’t rely on advertising dollars, ratings matter less that subscription rates — and Showtime said its streaming service generated its most sign-ups in a single day this year thanks to the premiere of “Who Is America?” It’s a repeat, of sorts, from last year for Showtime, when “Twin Peaks” didn’t perform well as a linear series (averaging 287,000 viewers per episode), yet the network touted the show’s success in signing up new customers.
If it was buzz that was being measured, then “Who Is America?” did make plenty of noise — thanks in part to politicians who were duped by the series, including Sarah Palin. Palin claimed that Baron Cohen posed as a disabled war vet in order to land his sitdown with the former Alaskan governor — but Showtime debunked that on Sunday, when it was revealed that Baron Cohen’s character Billy Wayne Ruddick Jr., Ph.D., isn’t disabled, he just uses a mobility scooter to get around.