HBO Films‘ The Normal Heart delivered a solid 1.4 million viewers across two plays Sunday night. Debuting nearly three decades after Larry Kramer’s play premiered off-Broadway, the Ryan Murphy-directed project premiered at 9 PM with an average of slightly less than 1 million viewers tuned in; an additional 434,000 thousand watched at 11:15 PM. That puts it fifth in viewership among the 17 HBO Films that have premiered on the network since 2010.
(For comparison’s sake: In March 2012, Game Change, about the selection of Gov. Sarah Palin as Sen. John McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign, snagged an average of 2.1 million viewers on its debut night, which marked the biggest crowd for an HBO original film since 2004’s Something The Lord Made, which snared 2.6 million viewers. In May 2011, Too Big To Fail, about Washington’s bailout of Wall Street, logged 897,000 Live+Same Day viewers in its debut. And 2008’s Recount, about the 2000 presidential election, clocked 1 million viewers in Live+Same Day in May 2008.
Before 2004, Nielsen used to roll all seven HBO multiplex channels into one big number. With that in mind: Nielsen reported back in December 2003 that 4.2 million watched the debut of HBO’s Mike Nichols-directed Angels In America — a miniseries that, like The Normal Heart, was adapted from a play (by Tony Kushner), was set in 1980s New York, included a central storyline about a gay man dying of AIDS who is visited by an angel, and also delved into Reagan-era politics and the AIDS epidemic.