Sunday's 9 p.m. premiere drew a surprising 4.8 million viewers, the premium channel's largest opening since 2004, when Deadwood had the benefit of The Sopranos as a lead-in. Additional airings at 10:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. brought the combined number of viewers to 7.1 million.
That's particularly impressive when you consider that, as recently as last week, HBO seemed to be downplaying ratings expectations for the $65-million production. "Not every show of ours has to be a ratings home run," programming president Michael Lombardo told The Wrap. "And that’s a great position to be in."
Adapted by by Terence Winter (The Sopranos) and Martin Scorsese from Nelson Johnson's book Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times and Corruption of Atlantic City, the crime drama is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, at the dawn of Prohibition, when the sale of alcohol became illegal throughout the United States.