Devil Anse Hatfield and Randall McCoy mostly tried to take down one another, but the collateral damage extended to every other show on television last night. History's Hatfields & McCoys pulled in more total viewers than any other non-sports telecast on ad-supported cable in the history of the format, with the exception of breaking news coverage and also the Al Gore/Ross Perot debate on Larry King Live in 1993 regarding the North American Free Trade Agreement (16.8 million people enjoyed that conversation. I'd have preferred Hatfields, or maybe Community. Or a root canal).
Recent heavy hitters included AMC's Western miniseries Broken Trail (9.8 million) and Walking Dead (9 million), but neither comes close to this monster in terms of total viewers. In all of prime time, the highest-rated show in total viewers was America's Got Talent with 10.03 million.
Hatfields, which History spent a small fortune promoting everywhere you look, stars Kevin Costner, Mare Winningham, Powers Boothe, Tom Berenger and Bill Paxton. In the 18-to-49 demo (the viewer age range most frequently guaranteed by networks to advertisers), the show pulled in 4.8 million pairs of eyeballs. The average on broadcast was 1.65 million total viewers in the demo for the same 9-11 p.m. time period, which included new episodes of American Ninja Warriors and The Bachelorette as well as repeats of recent scripted series. It's worth noting that other shows in cable have pulled better demo numbers than Hatfields (Walking Dead snagged 6 million 18-to-49-year-olds), but the show improved further in the slightly older 25-to-54 demo with 5.8 million total viewers.
The six-hour, three-part miniseries continues tonight and tomorrow. All told, the premiere and its immediate repeat presentation pulled in more than 17 million watchers.