Good news for fans of FX’s The Americans who feared it would go the way of recent FX dramas like Terriers and Lights Out. Yesterday FX announced that they are renewing the Cold War era spy drama for a second 13-episode season.
There was some worry that The Americans would end up having to wrap its entire story up in just one season just as those other dramas did when the series suffered an unusually precipitous decline in ratings from the very strong numbers of the pilot to the much less impressive performance of the second episode.
The pilot episode of The Americans attracted 3.22 million viewers, besting the numbers posted by the first episodes of ongoing hit FX dramas like American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy when they premiered. But the second episode attracted 40 percent fewer viewers than the first. Interestingly, FX President John Landgraf’s official statement about the renewal specifically mentions how much the show’s numbers increase when viewership by those playing the show off their DVRs is taken into account. Adding what the industry calls “Live +3″ numbers (meaning all those who have watched the episode on DVR within three days of the initial airing) brings the weekly viewership up to 3.11 million viewers.
Fans of low to medium rated shows, television networks, and advertisers have long been hashing out how to account for these DVR viewings. This is the first case I can remember in which a network has pointed to these sorts of metrics to explain why it’s renewing a show. It makes sense, as apparently The Americans has the highest number of “time-shifting” viewers of any first year series in FX history. It should be noted that even without taking into account these kinds of metrics, The Americans has higher ratings than Terriers or Lights Out ever did, and even has higher ratings than Justified, which is currently in its fourth season on FX. (Graham Yost is an executive producer on both Justified and The Americans.)
This is all good news. Certainly for fans of The Americans which due to its premise doesn’t seem in danger of running out of material after one season and for fans of other shows on the bubble hoping that networks will start taking DVR viewership into account in their decision-making. Also, it’s good that at least one network is programming serialized dramas on a night other than Sunday night, where every network seems to like to schedule all of them for some reason.