Life’s Rich Pageant

Discovery Channel roared to life on Sunday night, as the premiere of a new 11-part natural history epic landed more than 6 million viewers.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Discovery’s Life scared up 6.14 million total viewers in the 8 p.m. time slot, making it the most-watched program on cable for the week ended March 21. The 9 p.m. installment retained 96 percent of its lead-in, drawing 5.88 million viewers.

A joint production steered by Discovery and the BBC, Life shares more than a few strands of DNA with the 2007 series Planet Earth. The new effort edged its predecessor’s premiere by some 70,000 viewers.

The first hour of Life won the two major TV demos, averaging 2.84 million viewers 18-49 and 2.68 million adults 25-54. Among viewers 18-34, the Life opener finished a step behind Comedy Central’s South Park, bringing in 1.47 million members of the younger demo. (South Park’s Tiger Woods send-up drew 1.95 million viewers 18-34 in the series’ Wednesday 10 p.m. time slot.)

Hour two of Life took second place among viewers 18-49 (2.76 million) and finished fourth with 25-54s (2.47 million) and 18-34s (1.34 million).
 
Life’s March 21 debut was screened on all six Discovery networks that boast high-definition feeds. Alongside the flagship telecast, Life was simulcast on TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel, Investigation Discovery and Planet Green. It also ran on Discovery Health Channel, which doesn’t have an HD correlative but enjoys a certain cachet as the precursor to OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

TLC’s simulcast drew the largest audience, as 1.32 million viewers tuned in for the 8 p.m. showing. Animal Planet delivered 1.22 million viewers during the 9 p.m. installment, topping its own lead-in by 3 percent. Back on TLC, the 9 p.m. offering served up another 1.19 million viewers.

All told, the two hours of Life delivered 18.8 million viewers across the six Nielsen-rated Discovery properties. (Available in 54 million households, the 2-year-old Planet Green is not rated.) Simulcasts accounted for 36 percent of the overall deliveries; with a combined 4.91 million viewers, Animal Planet and TLC were responsible for 73 percent of the 6.77 million bonus Life viewers.

Target is the presenting sponsor of Life. Also lending their support are Volkswagen, Geico, Sprint and Discover Card.

Discovery Channel finished eighth among ad-supported cable nets last week, averaging 1.62 million prime time viewers.

While Life made a splash on Sunday night, USA Network once again won the overall week, with an average draw of 2.96 million total viewers. The NBC Universal net also held onto the top spot among adults 25-54 (1.23 million) and viewers 18-49 (1.07 million).
 
As is often the case, WWE Raw was USA’s biggest ratings magnet, as the weekly wrestling showcase notched 5.6 million viewers between 9 p.m. and 11:08 p.m. Raw took third among viewers 18-49, delivering 2.67 million members of the demo, while finishing second with adults 25-54 (2.62 million).
 
In the absence of any new episodes of its signature original dramas, USA secured its best numbers with NCIS repeats. The Mark Harmon vehicle delivered 4.3 million viewers Monday night at 8 p.m., while the Saturday installment drew 3.89 million viewers in that same hour.
 
Fox News Channel retained second place, averaging 2.65 million viewers. The news net jumped to seventh place among adults 25-54, drawing 705,000 members of the core demo, improving on the prior week’s delivery by 32 percent.
 
Once again, The O’Reilly Factor was the prime mover for FNC, drawing 3.77 million viewers Monday night at 8 p.m. and 3.65 million viewers in its Wednesday night outing.
 
TNT moved back into third place, drawing 2.02 million viewers, of which 914,000 were members of the 25-54 set. The Turner net took third among viewers 18-49, delivering 891,000.