Bill Maher’s Audience Is Almost Exactly the Same Size As Wyoming’s Population

Maher lost 200,000 viewers during the strike — and, yet, he’s still the ratings king of HBO
Bill Maher’s Audience Is Almost Exactly the Same Size As Wyoming’s Population

There may be no greater indictment of American democracy than the fact that Bill Maher’s base could have two senators if they really wanted them.

Real Time with Bill Maher is back on the air after returning from the WGA strike. Just a couple weeks before an agreement was reached between the writers’ union and the AMPTP, Maher announced that he would resume his show sans writing staff before widespread backlash and “scab” accusations forced a backpedal from TV’s most terminally smug centrist. Then, of course, his writers won their protracted battle with the producers and began a probably uncomfortable return to work under a boss who once said of them, “They kind of believe that you’re owed a living as a writer, and you’re not. This is show business.”

However, the reunion of Maher and his writers did not mark a complete return of Maher’s fans, as recent ratings data shows a 25-percent drop in viewership of Real Time with Bill Maher in the weeks since his return from strike compared to his numbers before the hiatus. Real Time is down 200,000 viewers  and, yet, it was still the most-watched series on HBO last month. We really need those dragons back.

Last Friday’s airing of Real Time with Bill Maher earned 607,000 viewers, clearing HBO’s second place weekly finisher, the obligatory period drama The Gilded Age, by over 150,000 viewers. Last Week Tonight, HBO’s polar opposite program that features the hyper-informed and fence-sitting-averse John Oliver, came in at third place with 418,000. Maher is, astoundingly, the king of HBO — but how heavy is that crown really?

Over on network late-night, the triumphant return of the so-called “Strike Force Five” has seen Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel leading the way, averaging 1.71 million and 1.59 million viewers respectively. Since the comparison between network TV and premium cable isn’t a fair one, it’s important also to note that both Colbert and Kimmel have seen significant jumps in viewership compared to their pre-strike numbers, with Colbert gaining over 800,000 viewers in his first week back — as many as were watching Maher before his entitled writers walked out on him.

Despite wielding a much smaller platform than so many of his contemporaries, Maher’s voice still seems to be the loudest, most arrogant and least informed of the bunch — between his hot takes on his Club Random podcast and his small-dicked diatribe against the misandry of Barbie, Maher somehow managed to be the most talked-about late-night host of the hiatus, despite the Strike Force Five’s best attempts to break into the podcasting business and Jimmy Fallon’s whole hostile workplace fiasco.

Now that the strike is over and Maher must begrudgingly accept his writers’ new contract, that attention he earned while Real Time was paused has not proved provocative enough to earn back the viewers that abandoned him during the break. I can’t wait to see which woke Twitter trend he’ll hold responsible for his poor performance this time.

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