Making the point that viewers will still show up in large numbers to watch big TV stunts, ABC had an audience of more than 13 million people for its broadcast Friday night of Nik Wallenda walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls, reports The New York Times’ Media Decoder.
The stunt, which was broadcast from 10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., helped ABC outstrip NBC, CBS and other broadcasters for Friday night, the story notes.
ABC hasn’t recorded a rating that high on a Friday in almost five years, the piece adds, noting that Friday nights — especially in the summer — typically earn low viewing numbers.
"Executives at ABC News, which produced the event, will surely cite the ratings the next time they propose a big network stunt — and odds are it won’t be very long," the article points out.
Wallenda ended the broadcast by telling viewers he planned to start preparing to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon, for which he has a permit. One of ABC’s hosts, Josh Elliott, responded, “Well, Nik, if you’re looking for a network, I think I have one in mind."
ABC stretched the half-hour walk into a three-hour broadcast, with the 8 p.m. hour looking at past "mega stunts," the 9 p.m. hour previewing Wallenda’s walk over the falls and the 10 p.m. hour showing the stunt.
During any given minute between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., 10.1 million viewers were tuned in, the story says. The audience grew as the program progressed, with viewers 18 to 49 growing from a 1.2 rating at 8 p.m. to a 3.4 rating at 10:30, the article notes.