NBC Hits the High Notes With The Sound of Music Live! | Adweek
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NBC Hits the High Notes With The Sound of Music Live!

First live TV musical in 56 years draws huge ratings

Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music Live! (NBC)

The halls of 30 Rock on Friday morning were alive with the sound of cheering, as NBC’s live staging of a 54-year-old Rodgers and Hammerstein musical delivered Alpine ratings.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, NBC’s three-hour presentation of The Sound of Music Live! delivered 18.6 million total viewers and a hearty 4.6 in the adults 18-49 demo, giving the network its first definitive Thursday night entertainment win in nearly a decade.

Starring Carrie Underwood as Maria von Trapp and True Blood’s Stephen Moyer as the imperious Capt. von Trapp, The Sound of Music did predictably big numbers among the 50+ set, averaging a 10.3 rating from 8-11 p.m. But younger viewers also tuned in, as the broadcast notched a 4.3 rating among adults 18-34 and pulled a 3.9 with the 12-34 set.

The show peaked early, averaging 19.7 million viewers and a 5.0 in the dollar demo at 8:30 p.m. That said, the overall retention was impressive, as 17 million viewers stayed glued to the screen until the curtain went down at 11 p.m.

While the musical’s deliveries were reminiscent of the glory days of the Must See TV era, NBC actually enjoyed a huge Thursday night victory a week ago. On low-HUT level Thanksgiving night, the Peacock dominated the field with a holiday NFL game—the Steelers-Ravens bloodbath averaged 21.1 million live-plus-same-day viewers and a 6.9 in the demo.

The Sound of Music Live! was punctuated by commercial breaks, including five pods that were sponsored by Walmart. Each 30-second Walmart spot reprised a popular song from the musical that had just played during the actual broadcast. For example, an ad scored by “My Favorite Things” appeared on the heels of the scene in Act I where Maria sings the song with the Mother Abbess (Audra McDonald).

The last time an American television network aired a complete live musical was on March 31, 1957, when CBS broadcast the Rodgers and Hammerstein adaptation of Cinderella. The show starred Julie Andrews, who of course would go on to star in the 1965 theatrical version of The Sound of Music. Estimates at the time put the national TV audience for Cinderella at approximately 107 million viewers.

Of course, Twitter had a great deal of fun with the live event, as users goofed on everything from the ersatz Alps in the background to Maria’s curtain dresses. DiGiorno Pizza may have had the most spirited response, as the Nestlé brand live-tweeted the entire event, from the title song through the reprise of “So Long, Farewell.”

Runner-up CBS averaged 9.84 million viewers and a 2.7 in the 18-49 demo, as The Big Bang Theory held its own at 8 p.m. (15.6 million viewers/4.8). The Millers fell 14 percent to a 2.4 rating, while The Crazy Ones slipped one-tenth of a point versus its most recent first-run episode, averaging a 2.1 at 9 p.m. Two and a Half Men was up 10 percent with a 2.3 while Elementary closed out the night flat with a 1.8 rating.

ABC took third on the night with 6.18 million viewers and a 2.1 in the dollar demo. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland was flat with a 0.9 rating, while Grey’s Anatomy fell 12 percent to a 2.3. Scandal continues to shine at 10 p.m., inching up a tick to a 3.0.

Lastly, Fox didn’t get much of a rise out of its own musical offerings, The X Factor eked out a mere 1.4 in the demo, while Glee drew a 1.1 rating.

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