‘Impeachment’ Premiere Ratings Dropped Significantly From Earlier ‘American Crime Story’ Debuts

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Initial Nielsen ratings for FX’s Sept. 7 debut of “Impeachment: American Crime Story” dropped significantly from earlier premieres of Ryan Murphy’s “American Crime Story” anthology five and three years ago, respectively.

According to Nielsen Live+Same Day ratings, the “Impeachment” launch drew 916,000 viewers and a rating of 0.24 in the key adults 18-49 demographic.

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The series failed to come close to the record-setting numbers achieved by the first season of the show “The People v. O.J. Simpson” in 2016 and the respectable premiere scores of “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” in 2018. The former garnered over 5 million viewers and a rating of 2.0 in the key demo, while the second obtained 2.22 million viewers and a 0.72 rating in the key demo. Both previous debuts topped all other cable telecasts the night they aired, while “Impeachment” was in the fourth slot (behind “Hannity,” “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “The Ingraham Angle”).

In fairness to “Impeachment,” the media landscape has changed significantly even from the time “Versace” premiered back in 2018, with more and more viewers watching shows on-demand rather than when they originally air. “Impeachment” is likely to see significant lift in its viewership once delayed viewing is factored in to the numbers.

This third installment of “American Crime Story” examines President Bill Clinton’s illicit relationship with then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and his subsequent impeachment in 1998. Beanie Feldstein, known best for her roles in “Lady Bird,” “Booksmart” and “What We Do in the Shadows”, portrays Lewinsky and Clive Owen plays Clinton. The cast also features Sarah Paulson as Lewinsky’s betrayer, Linda Tripp; Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones; Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge; Cobie Smulders as Ann Coulter; Judith Light as Susan Carpenter-McMillan; Margo Martindale as Lucianne Goldberg; Blair Underwood as Vernon Jordan; Mira Sorvino as Marcia Lewis; Taran Killam as Steve Jones; and Edie Falco as Hillary Clinton.

“Impeachment” had a winding journey to the screen. Murphy had optioned Jeffrey Toobin’s account of the saga, “A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Sex Scandal that Nearly Brought Down a President,” but put it aside in 2018 after deciding that no one should tell Lewinsky’s story without her involvement. Then in August of 2019, Lewinsky signed on as a producer, and the show was officially greenlit. The series had a premiere date of Sept. 27, 2020, but its proximity to the presidential election caused controversy— later, coronavirus upended the show once more, delaying filming until fall of 2020.

Ordinarily, episodes of the new FX original series and new seasons of the existing series that premiere on FX and FXX are available the day after on Hulu. However, due to a licensing agreement that 20th Century Fox inked with Netflix in 2016 for the exclusive global SVOD streaming rights to the “American Crime Story” franchise, “Impeachment” will be headed to Netflix sometime in 2022. However, customers with Hulu + Live TV are able to watch the series as it airs on FX on Tuesday nights as well as on demand.

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