Yellowstone continues to defy gravity, posting linear ratings not seen on ad-supported cable in years and rarely seen on broadcast television these says. In Week 2 of Season 4, the Taylor Sheridan drama starring Kevin Costner drew massive 7.5 million viewers in Live+Same Day, just -7% off its record-breaking two-hour season premiere the previous week. In adults 18-49 (3.19 rating in Week 2), the drop-off was even smaller, -4%. And in live viewing, Yellowstone actually increased its 18-49 rating, from 1.66 for the premiere to 1.72 in Week 2 on Paramount Network.
Episode 3 of Yellowstone on Sunday served as a lead-in for the premiere of Sheridan’s new Paramount+ drama series The Mayor of Kingstown, headlined by Jeremy Renner, which posted a solid 2.6 million viewers and a 0.9 in 18-49 (L+SD)
This was a promotional, linear run of the opening episode, which was also released on Paramount+. According to ViacomCBS, which does not release streaming data, The Mayor of Kingstown, co-created by co-created by Hugh Dillon, ranks as the #1 original scripted drama on Paramount+ since its rebrand from CBS All Access with the the highest consumption in day 1, measured by total viewership and what the first piece of content that they clicked on was when people came to Paramount+.
“It’s exceeding expectations on a very competitive night with NFL football,” Chris McCarthy, President and CEO of MTV Entertainment Group, said about the performance of The Mayor of Kingstown premiere. “We feel really really good about where we are and about how it’s going to continue to grow.”
He noted that The Mayor Of Kingstown‘s rollout, which includes one more airing behind Yellowstone on Paramount Network for sampling before the series becomes strictly an Paramount+ original, is part of “a strategy to use Yellowstone as a launch pad for new original series in the Taylor Sheridan universe.”
McCarthy was asked to elaborate on the plans to unify the universe, which is currently a little disjointed, with Yellowstone airing on the linear Paramount Network and streaming on NBCUniversal’s Peacock, and The Mayor of Kingstown streaming on Paramount+.
“That’s the sole reason why we decided to do the origin story, 1883, which takes us back to the beginning, he said.
The prequel series will launch in the same way behind Yellowstone for two weeks on Paramount Network before being exclusively on Paramount+ for the rest of its run. The series is currently filming, and McCarthy touted footage he has seen as “beautiful and cinematic.”
“It’s such a wonderful story. If you are a Yellowstone fan, you will love it. If you are not a Yellowstone fan, it’s the epic story about how America went West, you can enter it as a brand new viewer,” McCarthy said. “That’s why we are confident that the series will cast a wider net, bringing in new audiences, setting a bigger foundation for the Yellowstone universe.”
Of the other Sheridan series in development, likely to go next after 1883 is Land Man, an upstairs/downstairs story set in the world of oil rigs, McCarthy said.
The spectacular Yellowstone ratings have brought much needed good news for the battered linear television business, which has been retracting. But as big of a hit as Yellowstone has been, it is a sole beacon of hope as the only current scripted series on the cable network, with the other shows from the Taylor Sheridan universe launching there but running on Paramount+.
“We think that there is an opportunity to grow in both (linear and streaming),” McCarthy said, noting that the linear networks in his portfolio have grown their share in the last few years. “We use linear platforms as a launch pad to help bring those massive audiences.”
He pointed to series of original movies coming to Paramount Network, Comedy Central and VH1, which he oversees. “We really believe in these linear platforms as a great launch pad,” he said. “There is also a large amount of audiences that consume the majority of their content from linear, we love those audiences and want to give them great content to enjoy.”