One of Fox News Channel founder Roger Ailes’ obsessions was ratings, and the former Mike Douglas Show producer would have cackled at how quiet the debut of Showtime’s Russell Crowe-starring The Loudest Voice was. With just 299,000 viewers for its 10 PM opener Sunday night on the CBS-owned premium cabler, the series starring the Gladiator actor, Naomi Watts, Seth MacFarlane and Sienna Miller looks to be one of the year’s lowest non-broadcast debuts so far.
While the decades of antics and much alleged sexually harassing behavior of ex-Richard Nixon advisor Ailes was the subject of a forest full of coverage (including here on Deadline), especially once Gretchen Carlson sued her ex-boss in 2016, the initial numbers make it pretty clear there wasn’t much of a market for more outside the media itself.
Based on Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 bestseller The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country and the more recent reporting on the FNC scandals, the first episode of the Tom McCarthy-EP’d series was down 61% from the Season 4 premiere of Billions on March 17. With a marketing campaign that even the competitive Ailes would have admired for its reach and A-list scope, Loudest Voice was also off a hard 42% from the Season 4 debut of The Affair.
Perhaps most telling is that the limited-series opener delivered 43% less in total linear audience than the June 16 debut of the Aldis Hodge- and Kevin Bacon-starring City on a Hill, which had previewed online more than a week earlier.
Comparing subscription cable apples, Loudest Voice also took a shellacking of sorts from the June 24 debut of HBO’s dystopian family drama Years And Years. The Emma Thompson-led Monday limited series, which has already run in the UK, bested the Sunday night Showtime show by 17%.
Now, looking at other metrics, it doesn’t matter as much as on the Big 4 broadcasters because Showtime, like HBO, is ad-free. Yet, among the 18-49 demographic Loudest Voice’s debut snagged a tiny 26,000 viewers, or down 87% from the last Billions opener, according to Nielsen numbers.
In its defense, Showtime is taking a different POV and proclaiming that Loudest Voice snared a decent 651,000 viewers. They reached that number when you add up the 10 PM June 30 audience, plus replays, streaming and on-demand. As has proven to be the case with a number of its shows in the past, the premium cabler is clearly counting on Loudest Voice having an extended lifespan and gaining traction through more encores, delayed viewing and online streaming.
That may turn a whisper to a scream, as that Icicle Works song says.