'Love’ Hurts HBO Sunday Ratings

Home Box Office subscribers apparently did not love the pay channel’s new original drama Tell Me You Love Me.

The Sept. 9 premiere of the controversial series, which depicts in a very explicit and graphic nature the complicated sex lives of four couples, only drew 910,000 viewers, well below the 1.9 million viewers that HBO averaged in the Sunday 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time period over the previous four weeks, with drama series Big Love and the recently cancelled John From Cincinnati.

In fact, Tell Me was the lowest-rated HBO drama series premiere since Nielsen began breaking out the main HBO service from its multiplex channels in 2004. That includes last June’s John From Cincinnati (3.4 million viewers) and March 2006’s Big Love (4.56 million) premieres — although both of those shows had the advantage of having seminal drama The Sopranos as a lead-in.

Tell Me You Love Me’s premiere episode could still cume up to over 1 million viewers, once all replays are factored in.

Potentially hampering the show’s opening numbers was its availability on HBO’s on-demand service a week prior to its network premiere. HBO officials did not have VOD download numbers for the episode.

HBO’s sixth-season premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm performed slightly better in the 10 p.m. time period, drawing 1.17 million viewers. But it was the least viewed season debut in the history of the Larry David-starrer, and nearly five times below the show’s highest debut of 5.5 million viewers for the Sept. 15, 2002, season-three premiere.