House of Cards has seen its ratings drop for its final season, according Nielsen’s figures.
Netflix’s political thriller suffered a blow when its former star, Kevin Spacey, faced multiple allegations of sexual assault, and the producers acted quickly, removing Spacey from the production entirely, conducting an investigation to ensure staff safety and then going back to the drawing board to mount a final season with Spacey’s involvement in any way. Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood took the centre stage instead, and the refocusing of the show around her character proved a satisfying evolution for the show, but nonetheless left the House of Cards brand slightly tarnished.
“House of Cards’ final season starts off collected, thoughtful, and twice as tense,” we wrote in our spoiler-free review of the opening episode, praising Wright’s Claire for being a more engaging, enigmatic and fitting lead character. But word of mouth appears to have been more negative for the season’s other aspects with buzz notably lacking compared to the programme’s earlier seasons.
“A narrative mess creates too many loose ends to tie up,” we wrote in our review of the whole of Season 6.
Nielsen’s figures (per Variety) appear to back that up, with the final run of the political drama off to a slower start than Season 5.
Season 6 premiered on Friday 2nd November, with its opening episode racking up an average minute audience of 2.9 million viewers, compared to Season 5’s 4.4 million for the same episode and over the same period. Across all eight episodes of Season 6, the average minute audience was 1.5 million, down from 1.9 million for Season 5’s 13 episodes.
The series first premiered back in 2013, signalling a breakout era of new programming, becoming a flagship Netflix title, alongside Orange Is the New Black. Nowadays, though, the franchise is less popular than its newer hits, with Season 2 drawing 15.8 million average minute viewers for its first episode over three days last year. 13 Reasons Why Season 2 managed 2 million by the same metric.
Nielsen’s data, it must be noted, is not entirely accurate: it tracks only smart TV viewing in the USA, which excludes mobiles, computers and the rest of the world. Nonetheless, they provide an interesting point of comparison to give an indication of relative audience response, as opposed to actual audience sizes.
According to Nielsen, House of Cards’ sixth season skewed more towards women than Season 5, with 54 per cent of US viewers compared to 44 per cent for its fifth run. Adults aged 50 to 64 made up 27 per cent of its audience, up from 19 per cent for Season 5, while adults aged 18 to 34 made up 22 per cent of its audience, down from 35 per cent for Season 5. Both of these stats, though, could be a result of Netflix’s own shifting demographic and expanding reach, as the streaming giant increasingly invests in content to woo older subscribers, and expands to almost 140 million subscribers worldwide.
House of Cards Season 6 is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.