Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ Posts Disappointing Ratings

Less than a million people watched the Saturday night premiere on HBO

The ratings for 'Lemonade' were a little sour — AFP/Getty Images
Apr 27, 2016 at 5:36 PM ET

Lemonade, Beyoncé’s mysterious and much-hyped television event, premiered Saturday night, and as the potentially autobiographical film (and subsequent album) played out, the internet blew up in a frenzy over Jay-Z’s supposed infidelity. It hasn’t quieted down in the days since, with people still speculating wildly about who exactly “Becky with the good hair” was. But for an event that generated such ferocious online buzz, it turns out the actual HBO special was watched by fewer people than anticipated

According to Nielsen’s ratings, Lemonade’s premiere only pulled in 787,000 viewers. That number is surprisingly low—especially since it premiered during an HBO free preview weekend, which means a larger number of cable subscribers than usual had access to it. One possible explanation could be that Nielsen’s viewership number doesn’t take into account people who may have watched via the HBO Go and HBO Now apps, so there may have been a lot more eyeballs on Lemonade than it’s getting credit for. And Lemonade did face tough competition, going up against the NBA playoffs on ESPN and TNT. But the same situation applies to other HBO programs. Comparatively, Beyoncé’s masterwork was beaten by Jurassic World (1.8 million viewers), which aired right before it, and the Gennady Golovkin-Dominic Wade boxing match (1.3 million viewers) that followed it. For an extra damning comparison, the season premiere of Game of Thrones that aired the next night managed to reach 7.9 million people.

The low showing is also in line with previous Beyoncé efforts at HBO. On The Run, which she and Jay-Z did in 2014, pulled in a modestly larger audience of 880,000. By contrast, Amy Schumer’s comedy special Live at the Apollo, which debuted in October 2015, was watched by roughly one million people. The premiere of her 2013 documentary, Beyonce: Life Is but a Dream, garnered 1.8 million viewers. That came out on top of the premiere of the much buzzed about Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.

And while Lemonade may not have been the most watched show of the week, it did distinguish itself in one arena: Nielsen data reveals that it was the most tweeted about. There were 696,000 tweets about it the night the premiere aired. (The Voice, which came in second, logged just 507,000 tweets.) And that points to what really worked about Lemonade—it got people talking. The amount of conversation it generated, on Twitter and elsewhere, can be seen as a positiive for HBO. And even if the entire Beyhive didn’t tune in for the movie’s premiere, they’ll no doubt fork over money to listen to the album.