Aug 23, 2019

By Nicole Bitette
Many fans of the family drama are based in areas of the country where cowboys still roam.

Paramount Network’s Yellowstone is the most-watched cable series on TV for a second straight summer, an honor that’s due in large part to audiences in middle America.

The drama—about a Montana ranch owner, played by Kevin Costner, and his family—is the centerpiece of Paramount Network’s strategy to create TV as exciting as movies. Yellowstone is a perfect representation of the brand’s desire to produce premium content where setting plays as important a role as the characters. The series’ setting is integral to its character development—a pattern that continues in Paramount Network's forthcoming scripted series, whether it’s the U.S./Mexico border for Coyote, a forward operating base in Afghanistan in 68 Whiskey, small-town Mississippi of Paradise Lost, or the criminal underworld of London during the vibrant and volatile 1990s in its Sexy Beast prequel.

“Their stories are compelling without being too dystopian or too cerebral,” says Keith Cox, president of development and production for Paramount Network and TV Land. “We want to develop  shows that have the broad appeal of broadcast shows, but with the tone of cable,” says Cox. “We want to speak to a lot of different people, but we want to surprise them in the storytelling.”

Now in its second season, Yellowstone reaches an average of five million people per episode, topping ratings from the first season and growing viewership nearly every week since its June premiere, according to Paramount Network Research. While the series performs well coast to coast, it's most successful in cities throughout the Midwest and the South.

According to average Nielsen ratings (L+3, cable hard wired) for June 19, 2019-July 31,2019. Source: Nielsen. 

According to average Nielsen ratings (L+3, cable hard wired) for June 19, 2019-July 31,2019. Source: Nielsen. 

Laurel Weir, head of research for Comedy Central, Paramount Network, and TV Land, believes Yellowstone gives audiences a glimpse into the lives of Americans who aren’t typically portrayed on TV. “We are not going after portraying the Coasts, there’s a trend across the country where viewers want to be exposed to worlds and cultures that they don’t normally see, but they can completely relate to the story and the struggles of the characters. We’ve seen the show pop in the middle of the country,” Weir explains.

The ratings in Phoenix outperform other cities in America, with a 5.3 household rating, but Dallas, Texas, and Denver, Colo., aren’t too far behind (L+3, Cable Hard Wired). Other cities where Yellowstone has proven popular include Kansas City, Kan., Ft. Myers and Jacksonville, Fla., Oklahoma City, Okla., and the North Carolina cities of Raleigh, Greenville, and Charlotte.

Steve Greene wrote for IndieWire in June that the setting of Yellowstone is simply “what sets it apart from other dramas.”

“Sure, there isn’t a bevy of other series exploring life in the various corners of Montana. That’s what makes it exciting when Yellowstone jettisons its overly familiar petty family tussles playing out on a grand scale,” Greene wrote. “Beyond the simmering father-child tensions, there’s a vast world of stories within Yellowstone left to explore.”

Paramount Network has already started that exploration with the unscripted series The Last Cowboy. Executive produced by Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan, the show features horse reigners competing for a $1 million prize in the sport’s first arena-based competition that was launched in conjunction with the series. In addition, the network recently ordered a 10-episode third season of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone airs Wednesdays at 10 pm, ET/PT on Paramount Network with the season 2 finale on August 28.

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