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June 1, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

A six-hour miniseries airing on the History Channel this week may wind up leveling the playing field used by cable and broadcast networks. The series, Hatfields & McCoys, set Nielsen records, winding up on Wednesday with 14.3 million viewers and is likely also to wind up with the top ratings of the week. (Monday’s episode drew 13.9 million viewers; Tuesday’s, 13.1 million.) No other nonsports program in the history of cable TV has ever drawn such numbers. By contrast, the highest-rated episode of HBO’s The Sopranos attracted 11.9 million viewers. Hatfields & McCoys had something else going for it that The Sopranos did not — the blanket proliferation of DVRs in cable homes. Millions more will be watching the miniseries on a delayed basis, many in marathon six-hour sessions. Nevertheless, some commentators pointed out that the miniseries set no records among viewers 18-49, who made up just 35 percent of the audience on Monday, 34 percent on Tuesday and 36 percent on Wednesday. With an average of 4.9 million viewers in the young age group tuning in, the show didn’t come close to the ratings in that demo that have been garnered by other cable shows, including the 8.1 million who watched the MTV Video Music Awards this year.