American Horror Story: Coven, aka Season 3 of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s gleefully grisly FX anthology, opened with record-breaking crowds last night. About 5.54 million — and 3.87% of the country’s 18-49 year olds – tuned in to watch Kathy Bates give Jessica Lange a run for her scenery-chewing money as early 19th century New Orleans grand dame Madame LaLaurie who, when not leading society, kills time peeling the skin off the faces of her slaves, or turning them into minotaurs. It’s the most-watched telecast ever in the American Horror Story franchise — and, when Live+7 stats come around, stands a good chance of becoming the most-watched program in FX history. Add in last night’s repeats of the season debut and FX clocked nearly 8 million viewers and 5.4 million viewers aged 18-49.
Reboot has been very good to AHS. The FX anthology horror drama had ended its sophomore season with fewer viewers than its first season, which in a typical drama series, is not a good sign. Last season’s scarefest, American Horror Story: Asylum, opened with a completely different storyline and an average audience 2.3 million viewers (a 1.3 rating in the 18-49 demo) — 40% short of the franchise’s record-breaking first-season premiere crowd of 3.85 million, and 28% shy of the first-season ender’s 3.22 million. By the end of last season, especially 18- to 49-year-old viewers seemed to have grown weary of crazy nuns, insanity, gruesome medical experiments, and inmates who thought they were Anne Frank. In the adults 18-49 demo, last season’s finale was outstripped by Discovery’s Moonshiners (1.5 rating) and three repeats of The Big Bang Theory in cable syndication.