By Lanford Beard
Updated May 29, 2012 at 07:56 PM EDT
Credit: Kevin Lynch/The History Channel

Perhaps viewers were feeling the nostalgia on Memorial Day, or perhaps the onslaught of repeats and marathons created a hunger for original programming. Maybe the temptation of Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton’s bedraggled beards was too great. Whatever it was, the Monday kick-off to History’s Hatfields & McCoys was impressive. The miniseries was watched by 13.9 million viewers total, making it the No. 1 non-sports telecast in ad-supported cable television history.

As part of those ratings, the first night of the three-night event picked up 5.8 million viewers in the 25-54 demographic, and 4.8 million in the 18-49 range. In total, the debut airing and the same-night encore was seen by more than 17 million people. Said Nancy Dubuc, the network’s president and general manager, “With all the success we have had at History, we felt strongly for some time that we should own historical drama, and in true History fashion, we have done it, with — pardon the pun — guns ablazin’!”

Read more: