Billboard News Today
The two-part film attracted numbers rarely seen for documentaries on the premium cable channel.
HBO’s documentary Leaving Neverland delivered a sizable audience over its two nights, with the first installment drawing one of the biggest tune-ins for an HBO doc in the past decade. The four-hour film, directed by Dan Reed, features two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, detailing a litany of sexual abuse allegations against late music icon Michael Jackson. (Jackson’s estate and surviving family members have denied the allegations.)
The doc is the subject of a $100 million lawsuit against HBO filed by Jackson’s estate, claiming Leaving Neverland violates a non-disparagement clause in the contract for a 1992 Jackson concert film that aired on the pay cabler. Part one of Leaving Neverland averaged 1.29 million viewers for its first airing on Sunday night, the third-largest audience for an HBO documentary this decade behind Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (1.7 million) and Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (1.6 million).
Monday night’s conclusion brought in 927,000 viewers, giving the entire film an average of about 1.11 million viewers. The two-day average is also in the upper reaches for HBO documentaries in recent years.
Following the doc, the Oprah Winfrey-hosted special After Neverland — featuring interviews with Reed, Robson and Safechuck and an audience of sexual-abuse survivors and their families — drew 780,000 viewers on HBO (it was simulcast on OWN).
The initial audience for Leaving Neverland is several times larger than the typical tune-in for HBO documentaries. The last six docs to air on Monday nights on HBO, the outlet’s usual featured spot for documentaries, have averaged about 187,000 viewers for their first airings.
Across all platforms, part one of Leaving Neverland had gathered 1.7 million viewers as of publication time. Additional figures for part two weren’t available.