Kentucky sees payback from successful 'Hatfields & McCoys' miniseries

July 8, 2012 

You can't run away from a good feud. The recent Hatfields & McCoys television miniseries, based on the legendary 19th-century feud between families in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, has spawned a wave of prosperity in some of the most unlikely corners of the economy, both nationally and in Kentucky. Let's take a look:

What started Hatfield-McCoy mania?

The History channel's relentlessly promoted miniseries, which initially aired May 28 to 30 on the cable network.

What happened to tourism in Pike County, where the McCoys were based, after Hatfields & McCoys aired?

Pike County continues to be jubilant over the miniseries' success, which has translated into the kind of boost that a county tourist bureau can't buy.

According to county tourism director Tony Tackett, there have been 250 brochure requests a day on the Pike County tourism Web site, Tourpikecounty.com; there are an average 125 visitors a day to the county's tourism office, seven days a week; and the Web site had 319,000 hits in the month that ended June 27, up from an average of 5,000 a month,

Escorted tours of the Hatfield-McCoy feud sites, at $15 a pop, have sold out during the past six weeks, with the proceeds going toward building a statue of Randolph McCoy, patriarch of the Kentucky side of the feuders.

Also available and selling briskly is a $20 CD for a self-guided, do-it-yourself tour of the sites.

Why is the History channel so happy with the series' success?

Hatfields & McCoys, which starred Kevin Costner as William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield and Bill Paxton as Randolph "Ole Ran'l" McCoy, was a cultural phenomenon that set ablaze social networking sites and set a viewing record as the top-rated entertainment telecast ever for ad-supported basic cable. It notched audiences of 13.9 million, 13.1 million and 14.3 million viewers over the three days it first aired, respectively. The previous record was held by TNT's Crossfire Trail, starring Tom Selleck and Virginia Madsen, in 2001. Hatfields & McCoys is being touted for Emmy consideration.

And the books, how did they sell?

The University Press of Kentucky is over the moon with sales of its The Hatfields & the McCoys by Otis K. Rice, first published in 1982. Initially after the miniseries, the book's sales were in e-book format, said John P. Hussey, the press's director of marketing and sales, followed by a rush of orders for the hardback original.

The press has moved 15,000 copies of the book, making it, on the 30th anniversary of its printing, the most popular book the press has sold since Hussey started there in 2004. It beats a book on the use of bourbon in cocktails, with about 13,000 sold.

When can I buy the DVD?

The DVD and Blu-ray of the miniseries will be available July 31. They retail for $45.99 for the DVD and $55.99 for Blu-ray but are discounted considerably at several online outlets.

Did the miniseries 'Hatfields & McCoys' change TV?

TV Guide speculated that it would revive interest in miniseries and made-for-TV movies.

But it depends on the subject and the timing. HBO's Hemingway and Gellhorn starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen cost $19.5 million to produce but "was a ratings bust" in late May, TV Guide reported.

The History channel is owned by A&E Television Networks, the same corporate family that includes Lifetime and A&E. That gives it the advantage over, say, HBO, of ample venues for the rebroadcast and continued promotion of its miniseries.

Next up: A&E will broadcast the miniseries Coma from Ridley and Tony Scott on Labor Day weekend. Based on the Robin Cook novel and 1978 Michael Crichton film starring Michael Douglas, it will be a four-hour, two-night event about a hospital where healthy patients fall into comas. Coma stars Geena Davis, James Woods, Ellen Burstyn, Richard Dreyfuss and Lauren Ambrose.

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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