HBO has beat a hasty retreat on its new Monday programming strategy, moving "Six Feet Under" back to Sundays beginning July 10.
The premium channel decided to open a second night of original programming for the fifth and final season of "Six Feet Under," which premiered June 6. But HBO has seen underwhelming ratings on both Monday and Sunday, where hopes are that the 9-10 p.m. pairing of showbiz-themed comedies "Entourage" and "The Comeback" will perk up by moving to 10-11 p.m. — with "Six Feet Under" as their lead-in at 9.
An HBO spokesman indicated that the schedule shift was motivated by research findings.
"Though 'Six Feet Under' did triple the audience Monday night, we have learned through our research that only 1 percent of our subscribers were aware of our Monday night premiere," the spokesman said. "Therefore, we're moving it to Sundays, where our subscribers are accustomed to finding it."
"Six Feet Under" had been averaging 2.2 million viewers Monday night, with a cumulative audience of 4.6 million, including all of its replays for the week. "Entourage" has averaged 1.4 million on Sundays, with a cumulative audience of 4.4 million. Lisa Kudrow's "Comeback" has been slumping from the start, drawing just 1.1 million viewers on Sunday, with a cumulative audience of 3.4 million.
Although HBO typically sees better ratings by launching series after the traditional broadcast fall season, its primetime performance likely is being impacted by more summer fare than usual. Other cable channels also are proving competitive; HBO's own sister channel, Time Warner-owned TNT, launched new drama "The Closer" on Monday with outstanding results, averaging more than 6 million over the first two episodes.
All three HBO series will replay on Mondays in a reversal of the Sunday schedule, with "Entourage" at 9 p.m., "Comeback" at 9:30 p.m. and "Six Feet" at 10 p.m.