May 23, 2024

Taylor Sheridan’s hit drama “Yellowstone” made its broadcast debut on CBS last week, with an average 6.6 million viewers tuning in to watch the series premiere that first aired on Paramount Network five years ago. That number decreased to a still-solid 5 million with Episode 2 on Sunday night, and it seemed likely that a chunk of the viewers who dropped off — especially from within the 3 million viewers who had never seen the show before — may have opted to stream the show at their own pace on Peacock instead of returning to CBS.

Lo and behold: Viewership of “Yellowstone” between Sept. 17 and Sept. 27 grew by 26% compared to the previous 10-day period, Variety has learned exclusively.

Paramount Global imported “Yellowstone” to CBS for two reasons: to fill out its fall slate of scripted programming amid the Hollywood strikes, and to address previous research that revealed that 80% of CBS’ 200 million annual viewers had never watched it, despite that the Kevin Costner vehicle seemed like a fit for the network’s demographic. The company set a goal of 5 million viewers for the initial broadcast and expected a lower number for Episode 2 due to the lack of NFL lead-in, so the 6.6 million and 5 million respective viewers who tuned in represented a ratings win.

But the broadcast debut of “Yellowstone” has also been lucrative for one of Paramount Global’s competitors: NBCUniversal, the parent company of Peacock. Though all of the “Yellowstone” spinoff series stream on Paramount+ and the only linear airings of the franchise have been on channels owned by Paramount, NBCU acquired exclusive streaming rights for the show in 2019 before the launch of Paramount+, a move that current Paramount CEO Bob Bakish has called “unfortunate.”

But Paramount still hasn’t shut NBCU out. On Sunday, when viewers tuned in to watch “Yellowstone” on CBS, they were also sold a detour sign: The network sold ad space to NBCU, and aired an spot encouraging viewers to catch up with the Dutton family on Peacock instead, with one character saying, “This is a declaration of war.”

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