“Yellowstone” is one of the most popular shows on television. The first half of Season 5 comes to a close on Sunday (it will return with another seven episodes in 2023). Season 1 aired in Summer 2018 on the newly renamed Paramount Network, averaging 2.2 million viewers. Season 2, in Summer 2019, averaged 2.4 million. You’d think a western series with the iconic Kevin Costner would do better than that, but maybe viewers were struggling to find the PAR NET.
That wouldn’t last long. The 2020 pandemic saw lots of people playing catch-up on Seasons 1 & 2 ahead of that summer’s Season 3, which averaged 3.9 million viewers and saw its finale air to 5.2 million people.
15 months later, the two-episode Season 4 premiere in November 2021 aired to 8.4M and 7.4M viewers, respectively. Paramount Network realized “Yellowstone” could be a fantastic lead-in to other shows, especially ones on streaming service Paramount+. Why not show an episode or two from a new streaming series on the TV channel? If viewers are hooked, they’ll subscribe to PAR+?
First-up: Jeremy Renner’s “Mayor of Kingstown”. 2.6 million people stuck around after “Yellowstone” to watch the first episode in Nov. 2021. The next Sunday, 2.1 million people watched the second episode.
About a month later, in Dec. 2021, Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” delivered big numbers. The first episode: just under 5 million viewers. Episode 2: 4.3 million. Incredible.
For the first seven episodes of “Yellowstone”‘s fifth season, PAR aired the first two back to back (9.4M & 8.4M). Then the next two weeks, after “Yellowstone”, were the first two episodes of Sheridan and Sylvester Stallone’s new PAR+ mob boss show “Tulsa King”. Its viewership: 3.4M and 3.3M, respectively. “Tulsa King” has already been renewed for Season 2, thanks to a huge boost in PAR+ subscribers.
And over the past two weeks, the first two episodes of Showtime’s new limited series “George & Tammy” aired after “Yellowstone”. I enjoyed them. 2.7M and 2.3M people, respectively, watched them. Its viewership on Showtime on those Sunday nights, just 179,000 and 166,000 people, respectively. Hopefully Showtime gets a boost in subscribers.
This Sunday, right after the “Yellowstone” midseason finale, it’s the premiere of the next prequel series in the saga, PAR+’s “1923”, starring Helen Mirren and Harrison Ford. If close to 10 million people watch “Yellowstone”, I’ll be shocked if less than half (under 5M) stick around for “1923”, at the very least out of curiosity.
And when the NEXT “Yellowstone” spinoff, “6666”, premieres next year, don’t be surprised if an episode or two airs after “Yellowstone”. This strategy is really working.