The second season of "True Blood" got off to a bloody good start in the ratings Sunday.
The HBO series, whose audience built throughout its first season, attracted 3.7 million viewers to its second-season premiere Sunday night (June 14). That's the biggest audience for an HBO show in two years — since "The Sopranos" finale in June 2007. A replay of the premiere later Sunday night drew an additional 1.4 million sets of eyeballs, bringing the cumulative total to 5.1 million.
"True Blood" still has a ways to go to reach "Sopranos"-like heights — that show drew 8 million people a week in its final season — but it does once again give HBO a series whose numbers are in the upper echelon of the cable rankings. The premiere will finish in the top 20 on cable for the week.
HBO gave the show a big marketing push leading up to Sunday's premiere, spending millions of dollars to suck audiences into the story of telepath Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and the 173-year-old vampire (Stephen Moyer) who loves her.
"True Blood's" ratings gains over last season may be the most impressive thing about the premiere. Sunday's 3.7 million viewers represents a 157-percent improvement over the series debut last September (1.44 million) and a 51-percent bump over the first-season finale (2.45 million).
Multiple weekly airings, DVR use and on demand plays gave "True Blood" a total audience of about 6.4 million viewers per episode last season, according to HBO. The season premiere is 80 percent of the way to that mark after just Sunday's airings, so it should have no trouble passing that mark.