Live Telecast of Jesus Christ Superstar Hits 3-Year Ratings High for NBC

Starring John Legend as Jesus and Alice Cooper as King Herod

A live adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar gave NBC its best Easter Sunday in 12 years. Craig Blankenhorn/NBC
Headshot of Chris Ariens

NBC’s live telecast of Jesus Christ Superstar gave the network its best Easter Sunday in 12 years and its best Sunday overall in three years, not including sports and the Golden Globes.

With John Legend playing Jesus Christ, Broadway star Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene and Alice Cooper as King Herod, the live NBC telecast was an adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical which first hit the stage in 1970.

Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert scored a 1.7 rating in the 18-49 demo, and 9.6 million viewers overall from 8-10:23 p.m. ET. That was enough to make it the No. 1 show on the Big 4 networks, edging out American Idol on ABC (1.6 rating / 7.4 million viewers).

In 2013, NBC brought the live musical back to the network after a 56-year hiatus. The Sound of Music Live!, starring Carrie Underwood as Maria Von Trapp aired Dec. 5, and delivered a whopping 18.6 million total viewers with a 4.6 in the 18-49 demo.

A year later, NBC broadcast Peter Pan Live! which averaged a 2.3 ratings and 9 million viewers. The Wiz, NBC’s choice for the 2015 live musical, drew 11.5 million viewers with a 3.4 in the 18-49 demo; and NBC’s most recent live musical, Hairspray Live! on Dec. 7, 2016, earned a 2.3 rating and 9 million viewers.

Last December was the first time in five years that NBC did not produce a live musical event, after postponing Bye Bye Birdie. The network instead announced the Easter 2018 special of Jesus Christ Superstar. NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt promises a holiday musical later this year.

“Next Christmas, I guarantee you we will come back with a Christmas musical,” Greenblatt told Adweek in December.

@ChrisAriens Chris Ariens is the managing editor and director of video at Adweek.