‘Yellowstone’ Season 4 Premier Got TWICE The Audience of CMAs

If you need an illustration to help put into perspective how the shifting dynamics in entertainment are causing a tectonic-level reorganization of media, and how this is all weighing upon already deepening trends in country music, this might be one of the best.

The season premier for the Paramount series Yellowstone—which debuted on Sunday, November 7th—outright doubled up the viewership of the 2021 CMA Awards, which aired on Wednesday, November 10th. Granted, the final numbers for both broadcasts still need to be hashed out completely. But Yellowstone has taken such a sizable lead, there’s no more question who came out on top.

We already knew that Yellowstone had amassed some stunning numbers for its season debut. But after taking into consideration the “Live+3 ratings,” which factor in folks who taped it and watched it later, and then the simulcasts across other Paramount properties such as CMT and TV Land, Yellowstone pulled in a grand total of 14.7 million viewers according to Nielsen.

We already knew that Yellowstone had done well enough to beat all cable shows in the last three years. But these expanded numbers show that it is currently the top series of the season across all television, including broadcast, cable, and premium networks, and the 2-part premier was the biggest episode on cable since the season premier of The Walking Dead in 2017.

Meanwhile, the ratings for the CMA Awards fell slightly year to year in the overnight numbers, recovered slightly to end up in mostly flat in the more expanded numbers, but still got smoked by Yellowstone mightily. The CMAs got roughly 6.56 million viewers in the key demographic in 2021, which was down from 6.82 million viewers from the year previous, before recovering to about 6.9 million viewers in the time afterwards.

Some are declaring this a victory for the CMAs in an era when awards shows are down double digits across the board in the post-pandemic era. But this is after the CMAs lost nearly 40% of their viewership in 2020, down from 11.27 million viewers in 2019. The CMAs are basically the first awards show to log two broadcasts post pandemic, so perhaps this signals a tabling off in the ratings crash for these institutions moving forward.

How does this all portend for country music moving forward? Obviously, the CMA Awards are the mainstream country music industry’s premier event and infomercial each year, highlighting artists such as Dan + Shay, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, and the like. Meanwhile, Yellowstone has become one of the staunchest supporters of independent country music in all of media.

The two-part Season 4 Premier for Yellowstone alone featured music from Colter Wall, Blackberry Smoke, Hailey Whitters, Ryan Bingham, and Ross Shifflett. It’s also been revealed that Episode 3 named “All I See Is You” is indeed named after the popular song from Shane Smith and the Saints, which will be featured in the episode. (See a Running Tab of All Songs Featured on Yellowstone Season 4.)

Even if you don’t watch Yellowstone, don’t have cable, or you did give the series a try and don’t care for it, it’s clear after seeing the rising appeal of artists featured on the show that the popularity of Yellowstone is doing landmark things for the independent country artists the series features. The Music Supervisor for the show is Andrea von Foerster.

Even better, with creator Taylor Sheridan launching a prequel called 1883, and a sister series called 6666 about the famous ranch in Texas, even more opportunities for independent country music could be on the way.

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