The ‘Succession’ Finale Set a Series Record in Viewership, but…

The series finale of “Succession” set a new viewership record — for itself — on Sunday, despite the Memorial Day holiday and a particularly long running time (88 minutes). So that’s good. But, and not to rain on the parade here, the record now (and forever) stands at *just* 2.928 million.

That’s 68 percent better than the final Season 3 episode (1.7 million) and is excellent for a “Succession” episode on its debut day — but it is less than half of what another recent HBO success story, “The Last of Us,” would get on a regular basis. And it’s certainly no “Game of Thrones,” though what is? (We won’t make HBO miserable and go back to “The Sopranos” days — it’s a totally different era with completely contrasting TV-viewing habits and a direct comparison would be wildly unfair.)

While there was definitely a little extra motivation to tune in “live” to the “Succession” ender (like, who ends up the successor?!?), multiples of more viewers will consume it on a delayed-viewing basis. That’s just the nature of TV consumption in the streaming era. Including delayed viewing, “Succession” Season 4 episodes are currently averaging 8.7 million viewers, which is about 40 percent above last season’s average.

Previously, the biggest Sunday for “Succession” came from Episode 406, which drew 2.75 million that evening. Since then and until now, episodes had been hovering around the 2.7-million-viewers mark.

There’s an important distinction to be made here between those very different sets of viewership numbers, both of which come directly from HBO. The Sunday record counts linear and streaming viewership on just the evening an episode premieres. The 8.7-million average we mentioned above includes night-of and all catch-up viewing of an episode during the season-long run. It’s a generous and self-congratulatory way to look at things, but not really an unfair one. It also beats waiting on Nielsen measurement, which can (and has, in recent years) undercount viewers.

For example: Episode 406 had a then-record 2.75 million viewers on April 30; that, plus any viewership from May 1-May 29, would be counted in HBO’s final number for the episode.

The lengthy “Succession” finale last night meant the “Barry” series finale didn’t start until 10:30 p.m. The fourth and final season of “Barry” had been averaging 3.4 million viewers, including all that delayed viewing. The finale nabbed 700,000 Sunday viewers, up 13 percent from the Season 3 finale.

We’ll get delayed viewing statistics in the coming days and weeks; basically whenever HBO feels like sharing its internal Max numbers.

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