The show took in a staggering 14 million audience on its debut last week, overtaking FlashForward as the highest-rated genre premiere of the season. Its second episode, however, has taken 10.6 million from fast national figures. It’s worth noting that these don’t factor in audiences who recorded the program and watch it later; those tend to add another 2 million or so to figures and have heavily boosted audience numbers for shows such as Dollhouse and Fringe this year.
While this may seem like bad news for V on the surface, the figures are still strong for a science-fiction show, particularly a new one. The shedding of viewers after a premiere, known as the ‘drop-off’ in industry parlance, is a commonly recognised factor in measuring the success of a show, as premiere ratings are invariably unreliable. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, for instance, had a massive 18.3 million viewers on the airing of its pilot, due to scheduling with the Superbowl and heavy advertising, dropping to 10.07 million in its second episode and 8.65 for its third.
Exceptions do exist, of course – Lost had 18.65 million viewers for its feature-length premiere, dropping a million for its second episode and fluctuating between either side of 17 and 20 million for the rest of the season. Fringe actually gained on its pilot audience of 9.1 million, with 13.2 million for its second episode, but such instances are rare.
If V can maintain 10 million per episode, it has nothing to worry about, and indeed its prospects are bright. If it slips another several million over the course of the final two episodes to be aired before the Winter Olympics, then it may give ABC cause for concern.
V stars Elizabeth Mitchell, Morris Chestnut and Joel Gretsch among others. The series airs on ABC in the United States on Tuesday nights.