The ratings jury has made its decision on The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, and it is one FX and Ryan Murphy are likely to celebrate. The 10 PM debut of the highly promoted anthology series about the trial of century 20-plus years ago drew 5.11 million viewers with 2.5 million adults 18-49 for a 2.0 rating.
The Murphy-directed 80-minute first episode was the most-watched and highest-rated show on all of cable last night. In fact, it matched CBS’ Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials special as the highest-rated show overall Tuesday
In what is the most-watched drama series debut ever on FX, ACS also was up 92% and 143%, respectively, from the 2.65 million and 1.02 million demo numbers garnered by the April 2014 97-minute premiere of fellow anthology series Fargo. ACS topped the all-time FX drama debut viewership record set by The Shield on March 12, 2002. That Shawn Ryan-created series, which was the cabler’s first original drama, had 4.83 million viewers in Live+Same Day ratings, with a 2.4 rating in 18-49s.
While not as high profile as the look at the murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman and the subsequent O.J. trial, the Noah Hawley-created Fargo had its own name recognition advantage as it was based on the 1996 film from Joel and Ethan Coen. Like The People V. O.J. Simpson, the first installment of Fargo had a 10-episode run.
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr as Simpson and executive produced by Nina Jacobson, Brad Fulchuk and Murphy, American Crime Story‘s launch also was up from the debut of American Horror Story in 2011. That anthology exec produced by Murphy and Fulchuk saw its AHS: Murder House opener get 3.18 million viewers. The best season premiere AHS has had was the AHS: Freak Show opening viewership of 6.13 million in October 2014. The Golden Globe-winning AHS: Hotel drew the series’ second-best Live+SD debut ever with 5.81 million in October 2015.
Of course, FX has long said it is out of the Live+SD business. But with results like American Crime Story‘s last night, they probably can’t have those Live+3 numbers come soon enough. By the way, in Live+3 results, the Season 1 debut of Fargo surged 67% in overall viewership and 74% in the demo. The former stat remains the biggest delayed-viewing-lifted drama/miniseries premiere in the FX’s history.