The most spectacular success of the summer season on television may have come before summer has even started: the miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” on the History Channel attracted a monster audience Monday night, 13.9 million viewers, the second largest for a cable program that did not involve sports.
By comparison, the finale this month of NBC’s singing competition hit, “The Voice,” attracted 10.5 million viewers. Most hit shows on cable are in the range of two million to four million viewers, though “The Walking Dead” on AMC reached what seemed then to be an impressive nine million for its finale in March.
But that did not come close to the total Monday night for the History Channel’s depiction of the legendary American family feud, which stars Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton. The viewership even dwarfed the biggest competition on the broadcast networks on Monday, NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” which brought in just over 10 million viewers.
William Anderson (Devil Anse) Hatfield, in an undated photo.Associated PressWilliam Anderson (Devil Anse) Hatfield, in an undated photo.
The only other cable entertainment show to have more viewers was the Disney Channel’s showing of “High School Musical 2,” which drew more than 17 million viewers.
The miniseries has two more nights to run, Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Hatfields & McCoys” was also a big success in the categories important to advertisers. Among those ages 18 to 49, “Hatfields” reached 4.8 million viewers, again by far the biggest total on television Monday night. Among those 25 to 54 (the main ad-selling category for the History Channel) the show attracted 5.8 million viewers.
“I would have been happy with three million,” said Nancy Dubuc, the president of the History Channel, referring to the 25-to-54 figure. She said she had “a feeling in the pit of my stomach all day Monday” thinking about the ratings for the show, but “that’s usually a good feeling.”
No one at the network had speculated that the show could hit anything like those kinds of ratings numbers, Ms. Dubuc said.
She added: “It’s time for people to pay attention to what we’ve been doing all along. This speaks to the volume and the capabilities of this brand. HBO used to own this space, the historical drama, with shows like ‘John Adams’ and ‘Band of Brothers.’ We’re putting our mark on it now.”