Ratings: Homeland Spies Strong Debut, Dexter Premiere Delivers All-Time High

Homeland, Showtime’s new thriller starring Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, commanded 1.1 million viewers in its Sunday-at-10 debut, marking the cabler’s most watched drama premiere in eight years (since Dead Like Me). That led out of Dexter‘s biggest season premiere audience to date (2.2 million).

With its first airing, Homeland outperformed the recent premieres of The Borgias (1.06 million viewers) and Shameless (982,000 viewers) — and that’s coming off online and On Demand sneak previews (which combined to accumulate 1.4 million samplers) and opposite significant broadcast and cable competition. All told, factoring in Sunday night encores, Homeland played to 2.78 million total viewers.

Sunday’s Broadcast Ratings: Pan Am Flies Lower, 60 Minutes Surges

Dexter meanwhile continued its streak of consistently improving on previous premieres, this time with the Season 6 opener besting Season 5’s by 24 percent. The return of America’s favorite serial killer also marked the best season premiere for a Showtime series in 14 years (since Stargate circa 1997).

Dexter‘s 9 pm audience of 2.2 million also represents Showtime’s most-watched telecast telecast of 2011. Factoring in encores, the dark drama played to 2.76 million viewers.