Miniseries on History sets basic-cable record

Hatfields and McCoys” has made history at History, drawing 13.9 million viewers in its initial telecast Monday night to become the most-watched nonsports program in ad-supported cable history.

When including the encore telecast later the same evening, the first night of the three-part, six-hour miniseries drew 17.7 million. Mini drew 4.8 million viewers in the 18-49 demo and 5.8 million in 25-54.

Hatfields and McCoys” details the long-standing hatred between rival families the Hatfields in West Virginia and the McCoys in Kentucky.

Previous record holder was “Crossfire Trail,” a TV movie starring Tom Selleck that drew 12.5 million when it aired on TNT in 2001. Last year’s highest nonsports ad-supported cable program was MTV’s “Video Music Awards” telecast, which drew 12.4 million in August. On the scripted side, “Rizzoli and Isles” and “The Walking Dead” had highs last year of around 9.3 million.

Kevin Costner stars as Devil Anse Hatfield and Bill Paxton plays Randall McCoy. Co-stars include Mare Winningham, Powers Boothe and Tom Berenger.

“With all the success we have had at History, we felt strongly for some time that we should own historical drama,” said network topper Nancy Dubuc. “We couldn’t be more proud of the entire cast and crew.”

Exec producers are Dubuc, Dirk Hoogstra and Leslie Greif of Thinkfactory Media.

Episodes two and three air tonight and Wednesday, respectively.

“Hatfields” was promoted on many of History’s top shows — including “Pawn Stars,” “American Pickers” and “Swamp People” — as well as different series throughout the A&E empire, including A&E and Lifetime.

Marketing reach expanded to several mainstream magazines, and the cabler even decorated a subway in New York with images from the miniseries.

History has long had success with its reality skeins, but Dubuc decided the net should branch into scripted as well. First project greenlit was miniseries “The Kennedys,” which ultimately moved over to ReelzChannel after History passed.

Massive viewer number for “Hatfields and McCoys” may give History impetus to move more aggressively into the scripted space. Net already has given a full-season order to drama series “Vikings,” from MGM, with production to begin later this summer for a 2013 debut. Gabriel Byrne recently signed for one of the lead roles.

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