Disney’s ‘Wizards’ Conjures Up 11.4 Million Viewers

Disney Channel on Friday put a spell on its young fan base, as the premiere of Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie delivered an average 11.4 million viewers, doubling the prime-time average of each of the broadcast networks and making it the year’s most-watched scripted program on cable.

The Mouse’s 77th original movie title drew 4.5 million kids 6-11 and 4 million ‘tweens 9-14, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data. Both numbers established high-water marks for the demo thus far in 2009.

The Wizards film now stands as Disney’s second most popular since the network began programming original movies, back  in 1997. Two years ago, the network drew 17.2 million viewers with the premiere of High School Musical 2; upon application of live-plus-seven-day data, that delivery rose 8 percent to 18.6 million.

Along with the gaudy Friday night deliveries, the Wizards film seems to suggest that Disney has a can’t-miss replacement for Miley Cyrus, who will leave the fold next year following the fourth and final season of Hannah Montana. Star Selena Gomez anchors the Wizards of Waverly Place series and starred in the fourth most-watched DCOM, Princess Protection Program, which drew 8.53 million viewers on June 26.

With seven days of time-shifted viewing, Gomez and her P-cubed cohorts drew 9.9 million total viewers, an increase of 17 percent over the initial live-plus-same-day draw. If Wizards notches a similar gain, its L7 delivery will jump to around 13.3 million viewers.

Year-to-date, the closest any network has come to serving up Wizards-sized numbers came on the week ended June 28, when TLC delivered 11.2 million viewers with the unscripted Jon & Kate Plus 8. The live-plus-same-day delivery for the June 22 episode, in which the Gosselins announced their plans to separate after 10 years of marriage, averaged out to around 10.6 million viewers, thus, a week of time-shifted viewing boosted the overall draw by 6 percent.

Among scripted efforts, USA Network’s Burn Notice drew the second-largest cable audience of 2009, averaging 9.1 million viewers (L7) with its August 6 mid-season finale. Next in line was the more kid friendly Nickelodeon special, the iCarly movie iFight Shelby Marx, which drew 8.9 million viewers (L7) on August 8.