'Yellowstone' Season 4 Premiere Delivers Huge 14.7 Million L+3 Audience, ViacomCBS Declares it Bigger Than 'Game of Thrones'

Kevin Costner as John Dutton in Paramount Network's "Yellowstone"
(Image credit: Paramount Network)

Everyone is 'Stone'd at ViacomCBS headquarters in West Hollywood today, and they're loving every minute of it. 

Yellowstone, the steadily growing Paramount Network series starring Kevin Costner as a wealthy but embattled Montana ranch owner, has exploded into a rare water-cooler linear TV hit, with ViacomCBS announcing Friday that the show's Season 4 premiere drew a linear TV audience of 14.3 million viewers in its first three days (aka "L+3"), according to Nielsen. 

Not for nothing, but in its press note today, ViacomCBS said that Yellowstone is on a "trajectory higher" than HBO's mega-popular Game of Thrones, which had a 8.1 million L+3 viewers in for its fourth season debut in HBO's premium cable universe back in April 2014. 

OK, as Vincent Vega might say, that's a bold statement. GOT ended its eight-season run in 2019 with a Live+Same Day audience of 19.3 million viewers. 

But ViacomCBS isn't wrong to get excited about a series that has seen audience growth of 135%, higher than any other top 15 scripted show over the last five years. The Yellowstone Season 4 premiere, which was simulcasts across ViacomCBS channels Paramount Network, CMT, Pop and TV Land,  bested the L+3 debut of Season 3 (9.3 million viewers) by 58%. 

Yellowstone debuted to a Live+Same Day audience of 8.3 million viewers, making it the second most watched show on broadcast, basic cable and premium cable so far in the 2021-22 TV season. The L+3 audience was the biggest performance in basic cable since AMC's premiere of The Walking Dead in 2017. 

Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan has already been given green lights by ViacomCBS for two new shows, Mayor of Kingstown and Yellowstone spinoff series 1883.

“Over 14 million viewers tuned in for our Yellowstone premiere which will now serve as massive launch pad as we sneak episodes of Taylor Sheridan’s new series Mayor of Kingstown, whose full season will be rolling out exclusively on Paramount Plus starting Sunday,” said Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of MTV Entertainment Group. “Taylor has created a cinematic experience that our remarkable cast led by Kevin Costner brings to life in a way audiences can’t get enough of and we are excited to deepen our relationship with him and capitalize on this tremendous momentum by building out the Yellowstone franchise together.”

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!