HBO debuted the explosive Michael Jackson documentary, “Leaving Neverland” to 1.3 million viewers on Sunday night, the third-most watched doc premiere for the network in a decade.
The 1.3 million is just for the linear TV watchers on Sunday night, according to Nielsen. The two-hour premiere — Part 2 aired on Monday — was behind only “Going Clear” (1.7 million) and “Bright Lights” (1.6 million). Across all on-demand and digital platforms, “Leaving Neverland” is up to 1.7 million viewers.
HBO will have numbers for Monday night later on Tuesday.
Dan Reed’s four-hour documentary features comprehensive and damning accusations from two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say Michael Jackson sexually assaulted them when they were young boys. Both Safechuck and Robson accuse Jackson of leveraging his star power to gain the trust of their families — trust he then used to physically and emotionally abuse the boys for years.
The Jackson estate has vehemently opposed the documentary, calling it “the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, and now in death.” At the same time, the estate is suing HBO for $100 million for allegedly violating a non-disparagement clause that was part of an agreement the two sides had which granted HBO the right to air Jackson’s Dangerous World Tour live back in 1992.
The singer’s estate also issued a statement saying, “This is yet another lurid production in an outrageous and pathetic attempt to exploit and cash in on Michael Jackson … Wade Robson and James Safechuck have both testified under oath that Michael never did anything inappropriate toward them. This so called ‘documentary’ is just another rehash of dated and discredited allegations. It’s baffling why any credible filmmaker would involve himself with this project.”
You can check out TheWrap’s take on the some of the more jarring accusations in the film here.