The Americans Bows to 3.2 Million Viewers

Cold War espionage thriller latest win for FX

FX is breaking out the водка and икра—that’s “vodka” and “caviar” to you, Yankee Imperialist Dog—as the series premiere of its Cold War espionage thriller The Americans drew big numbers Wednesday night.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, the 97-minute opener averaged 3.22 million total viewers, of which nearly half (49 percent, or 1.57 million) were members of the adults 18-49 set. Leading out of the  commercial TV premiere of the 2010 Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz action comedy Knight and Day, The Americans delivered a 1.2 in the dollar demo, an improvement of 50 percent versus the movie’s 0.8 rating.

Because FX guarantees against a four-run cume, it’s instructive to look at the encore numbers as well. The first repeat (11:38 p.m.-1:14 p.m. EST) delivered 1.01 million viewers and 643,000 adults 18-49, while the final encore posted 470,000 viewers and 319,000 representatives of the under-50 club. All told, the three telecasts served up 4.7 million viewers and 2.53 million adults 18-49. A fourth and final encore will air on Tuesday, Feb. 6 at 11 p.m.

A few weeks ago, as filming began on the critically-acclaimed series’ fourth episode, FX president and general manager John Landgraf said that while he had high hopes for the premiere, he never makes a decision on a renewal until many weeks of data are in.

“Your audience doesn’t stabilize until you’re seven, eight, nine weeks in, so you can’t draw any sweeping conclusions from the early results,” Landgraf said. And while the first night looks like a winner—the premiere out-delivered the premiere of FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum and put up bigger demos than the debut of Sons of Anarchy—the full picture won’t slide into view until the time-shifted data is generated by Nielsen.

“About half of all viewing of our original series happens live, and that’s inclusive of the primary airings plus the encores,” Landgraf said. “But when you factor in the DVR and online streaming and video-on-demand, the first-run episode accounts for just 30 percent of the show’s overall deliveries.”

That being said, the pilot’s live-plus-same-day delivery was no slouch, beating broadcaster ABC in head-to-head competition. A repeat of the country-fried drama Nashville averaged 3.01 million viewers and a 0.9 rating in the 10 p.m. time slot. 

The success of The Americans comes as FX celebrates the highest-rated month in its 18-year history. In January, prime time deliveries soared 24 percent to 1.26 million viewers per night, while the dollar demo jumped 36 percent to 1.01 million. The network also recorded all-time monthly highs for males 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.