'Homeland' Nets Showtime's Hottest Nielsen Start Since 2003

Showtime's terrorist thriller Homeland struck home with viewers Sunday night becoming the second-largest original series premiere for the premium programmer.
Homeland, which stars Damian Lewis as a returning Marine, who is under suspicion from a troubled CIA agent played by Claire Danes, averaged 1.08 million viewers with its Oct. 2 debut at 10 p.m., according to Nielsen data. That audience eased past the 1.06 million for the recent premieres of Renaissance papal drama The Borgias (1.06 million) and dysfunctional family comedy Shameless (982,000), and now ranks as Showtime's top bow since the starter of Dead Like Me, which drew 1.11 million watchers in June 2003.
Followed by encores at midnight and 2 a.m. on Oct. 3 that attracted 243,000 and 56,000 more viewers, Homeland amassed a first-night audience of nearly 1.38 million.
The show, which was made available online and via affiliates' on-demand channels, also scored with 1.4 million users from those platforms through Sept. 13.
Meanwhile, the sixth-season premiere at 9 p.m. of serial killer series Dexter drew 2.2 million watchers, making it the top original series starter for the network to date and most-watched telecast of 2011.
The record start also enabled the Michael C. Hall-starrer to continue its skein of improving on each of its prior bows. Last night's debut was up 24% over Dexter's fifth-season premiere's 1.77 million viewers, according to Showtime officials.
Additionally, Dexter encores added 467,000 and 104,000 viewers at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., respectively, lifting its total to 2.76 million, 18% above season five's opening-night tally. The Oct. 2-3 airings now represent the biggest premiere night in the network's history.