Basic-cable record 14.3 million watch finale of miniseries

Auds stayed glued to the feud Wednesday, as History’s finale of miniseries “Hatfields and McCoys” drew a whopping 14.3 million viewers.

The huge tune-in — bolstered by substantial interest in the Southeast — breaks the record set Monday by part one of “Hatfields” (13.9 million) as the most-watched entertainment telecast in basic cable history. It also was a big boon for a network that has had limited experience in scripted programming.

“I have to admit, it was a complete shock,” History programming topper Dirk Hoogstra said Thursday of the mini’s ratings. “We knew we had a beautiful film, and we left no stone unturned in marketing. Every department in the company came together with a single mission, and it paid off.”Hoogstra, who was also an exec producer on the project, said A&E and Lifetime joined History (which all fall under the A&E Television Networks banner) in promoting “Hatfields,” getting the message out to as many people as possible. He also credits tours done by the talent, the effective use of song “Bartholomew” (by the Silent Comedy) in promos and the sponsorship of the Mayweather-Cotto fight in early May.

The Memorial Day premiere date was key too, as the net has done well on the night in the past, including last year with “Gettysburg,” and the broadcast nets had wrapped their seasons and did not counter with any original dramas on the three nights. As an added bonus, Hoogstra said, that “it also helps from an awards perspective, it’s right before Emmy season.”In addition to its huge overall audience, Wednesday’s conclusion of “Hatfields” also did well in key demos, so it wasn’t purely an older-skewing film.

It drew the largest adults 25-54 audience for a basic-cable entertainment telecast (6.3 million) since USA miniseries “Moby Dick” in 1998. And in adults 18-49, its average aud of 5.1 million Wednesday (equating to a 4.0 national rating in the demo) lagged only the season finale of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” — TV’s No. 1 drama in the category for the season — among all scripted drama programs on television for the month of May.

For the three nights, “Hatfields” averaged 13.8 million viewers overall, including 6 million adults 25-54 and 4.9 million adults 18-49.

The previous high-water mark in total viewers for a basic-cable entertainment telecast was the 12.5 million garnered by TNT’s “Crossfire Trail” in January 2001.

Looking closer at the numbers, roughly 54% of the 18-49 audience for “Hatfields” on Wednesday was male.

And not surprisingly, the showed fared best in the South. Its three nights averaged a 6.9 metered-market household rating nationally, according to Nielsen, but the only top-10 markets that came in above average were Atlanta (9.6) and Dallas (7.4).

Knoxville (Tenn.), Louisville (Ky.), Birmingham (Ala.) and Greenville-Spartanburg (S.C.) were the top-rated of the metered markets, with more than 14% of homes in each area tuning in to “Hatfields.” Conversely, just 5% of Gotham homes and 3% of Los Angeles homes were watching.

Looking ahead, History will launch its first scripted series, “Vikings,” early next year.

“Hollywood has seen the level of achievement we’re capable of in marketing, acting and everything,” Hoogstra said.

“Agents were calling me today, and we’re definitely on the radar of the scripted world because of this.”

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