'I Am Cait' Debut Falls Short of Lofty Expectations but Still Delivers Big

Can't Touch Season 4 Finale of 'Kardashians'

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Caitlyn Jenner.
Caitlyn Jenner. Credit: E!

It seems the buildup over Caitlyn Jenner's transformation dissipated a bit too soon for E! to make a major splash with the debut of the docu-series "I Am Cait."

The show, which chronicles Ms. Jenner's journey as a transgender woman, premiered to 2.73 million total viewers on Sunday night and pulled a 1.2 rating among the all-important 18-to-49 demographic.

That's a meaningful audience for the NBC Universal cable network, and cable TV in recent months has struggled to provide premieres on this level.

It does, however, fall short of some robust expectations. Nearly 17 million people tuned in to ABC's "20/20" in April to watch Bruce Jenner's interview with Diane Swayer, and more than 7 million people watched Ms. Jenner accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs earlier in the month, also on ABC.

Switching to cable couldn't have helped, but perhaps Caitlyn Jenner revealing herself to the world, first on the cover of Vanity Fair in July and then during the ESPYs, took some the show's wind out of its sails.

The premiere episode was on par with the two-part "Keeping Up With The Kardashian Special," titled "About Bruce," which averaged 2.75 million viewers in May and a 1.4 rating. But it pales in comparison to the "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" all-time high, when 4.8 million viewers tuned in to the season 4 finale.

Advertisers are certainly interested in the series, and the premiere episode easily sold out of commercial time. Top advertisers in the episode included Airbnb, AT&T, Paramount's "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation," Weinstein Co.'s "No Escape" and T-Mobile, according to iSpot.tv.

Media buyers said NBC Universal's ad sales team didn't attempt to create special ad packages or sell flashy sponsorships leading up to the debut. It seems E! took more of a low-key approach, choosing instead to focus on Ms. Jenner's story.

NBC Universal, which has stopped releasing live plus same-day ratings for its series, later this week will release the Nielsen ratings for the live airing plus three days of DVR playback.

Contributing: Anthony Crupi

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