How Yellowstone's Record-Breaking Season 3 Premiere Did In The Ratings

yellowstone season 3 premiere beth dutton john dutton paramount
(Image credit: Paramount)
(Image credit: Paramount)

Yellowstone returned to Paramount for Season 3 after a ten-month hiatus, which left fans hanging on what would happen next after the rescue of Tate and death of Malcolm Beck. The third season premiere on June 21 proved that the long hiatus didn't cost Yellowstone its viewership at all. In fact, Yellowstone broke records with the Season 3 premiere with huge ratings that may set up Season 3 to be Yellowstone's biggest hit to date. And that's saying something!

The Season 3 premiere of Yellowstone attracted a total audience of 6.6 million viewers, ranking it as the most-watched cable premiere of 2020. The episode was also a hit in two major demographics, including the key 18-49 age range.

In the 18-49 demographic in Live+Same day calculations, Yellowstone began Season 3 with a 1.78 rating. The 1.78 marks a boost of 127% from last year's Season 2 premiere. No, that's not a typo. Yellowstone really rose by more than 120% in the most valued demographic after a ten-month hiatus!

The premiere was also a hit within the 25-54 age range, which suggests that Yellowstone's sweet spot is slightly but not drastically higher than the 18-49 demo. In the 25-54 range, Yellowstone reached a rating of 2.4, which is a boost of 112% over the first episode of Season 2. While the rating for 25-54 is significantly higher than 18-49, it was 18-49 that experienced the biggest boost.

These numbers mark record-high ratings in Live+Same day across the key demographics, as well as the biggest telecast in Paramount Network history. Basically, Yellowstone is back and stronger than ever. I for one am curious to see how these numbers change when delayed viewing can be accounted for.

Will the ratings and viewership stay more or less the same, suggesting that the majority of the Yellowstone audience made sure to watch the premiere when it aired live on June 21? Or will the calculations after a few days or even a week show significant upticks? It wouldn't be the only show on the small screen to turn in huge delayed viewership. It should also be interesting to see how the numbers grow or shrink from the premiere to subsequent episodes.

A big question is what led to the massive audience and ratings boost. Yellowstone hasn't been as easy to find streaming as other major cable shows, so streaming availability likely didn't lead to so many people tuning into the Season 3 premiere live. There is always the fact that Yellowstone airs in the summer TV season, when scripted dramas can be relatively few and far between in primetime lineups packed with reality TV series and competition/game shows.

Whatever the reason, the first two seasons of Yellowstone will soon be available streaming, which could potentially result in the audience for Yellowstone Season 3 growing even more. The show is coming to the upcoming NBCUniversal streaming service, called Peacock. The new streamer launches nationally on July 15. Considering the first two seasons together combine for fewer than 20 episodes, binging through the beginning and getting to Season 3 wouldn't take too long.

If you're already part of Yellowstone's massive audience, you can continue to find new episodes of Dutton family drama (with Lost vet Josh Holloway in the mix) on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Paramount. For more viewing options, check out our summer 2020 premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.