"American Horror Story" fell a little short of a same-day series record but still made quite an impression in its return Wednesday, as the "Hotel" installment of the franchise -- featuring Lady Gaga in her TV series debut -- opened to big numbers for FX and stood as the night's No. 2 program in the 18-49 demo, behind only sister network Fox's "Empire."
FX has a policy of not releasing any ratings analysis of its series until three-day VOD and DVR playback can be included, but according to same-night numbers released Thursday by Nielsen, the premiere of "American Horror Story: Hotel" averaged a 3.0 rating in adults 18-49 (about 3.8 million in this age group) and 5.81 million viewers overall. This is down a tick in the demo and about 5% lower in total viewers from last year's "American Horror Story: Freak Show" premiere (3.1 rating in 18-49, 6.13 million viewers overall), which went on to become the network's most-watched telecast ever in Nielsen's "live plus-3" estimates. There's no reason to think last night's premiere can't set a new record when L+3 numbers come out on Monday.
For the full duration of last season, "American Horror Story: Freak Show" averaged roughly 12.64 million viewers in combined linear and non-linear viewership, surpassing the previous year's "Coven" installment (11.75 million) as well as the seventh and final season of "Sons of Anarchy" (11.69 million) as the network's most popular series to date. The show generated 10.73 million viewers in "live plus-7" linear viewing and picked up an additional 1.91 million from VOD and streaming.
The 3.0 rating in adults 18-49 for FX's "American Horror Story" ranked second among all primetime series on Wednesday night, behind only sister network Fox's "Empire" (5.1). Specifically in its 10 p.m. timeslot, it more than doubled the rating for broadcast leader "Chicago PD" on NBC (1.5).
In each of the last three seasons, "Horror Story" has peaked in same-night ratings with its premiere episode. The finale of "American Horror Story: Freak Show" in January of this year did a 1.55 rating in 18-49, which is half of its season premiere three months earlier.