TV Ratings: 'Hairspray Live!' Falls From NBC’s 2015 Musical, Matches 'Peter Pan' Lows

Fox's 'Empire' outperforms the telecast in the key demo, with a series low, though 'Hairspray' ranks as Wednesday's most-watched telecast.
Chris Haston/NBC
'Hairspray Live!'

Like so many other signs of the holidays, a live NBC musical telecast now arrives each December — much to the delight of fans of camp and classic show tunes. This year's edition, Hairspray Live!, debuted Wednesday night, and early ratings have it lower than any previous effort.

Updated fast affiliate returns for Hairspray have the show earning 8.9 million viewers and a 2.3 rating among adults 18-49. The 8 p.m. telecast also garnered a 5.9 overnight households rating in Nielsen Media's metered markets — a 25 percent drop from the previous year's entry, The Wiz Live!. The early score matches what tally Peter Pan Live! brought in 2014. The previous franchise low ultimately translated to 9.2 million viewers.

Hairspray didn't earn a new low in the key demo. Its average 2.3 rating tied Peter Pan's showing among adults 18-49. 

One big change this year was that NBC's live musical aired on a Wednesday. The previous three entries, including 2013's record-setting The Sound of Music, aired on Thursdays — but NBC's new Thursday Night Football contract prompted a mandatory move this year. The shift kept it from having any NFL competition, but that didn't seem to do it any favors. For NBC's part, it was the best in-season Wednesday the network has seen in two years.

Hairspray also is down from the off-net musical competition from earlier this year. Fox's Grease: Live!, quite celebrated for its production elements, drew a 7.4 overnight rating among metered-market households. (It ultimately averaged 12.2 million viewers and a 4.3 rating in the key demo.)

NBC's Live Musicals to Date

The Wiz — 11.5 million viewers; 3.4 rating adults 18-49 (7.9 overnight)
Peter Pan — 9.2 million viewers; 2.3 rating adults 18-49 (5.9 overnight)
The Sound of Music — 18.3 million viewers; 4.6 rating adults 18-49 (10.6 overnight)

In the meantime, the live musical trend is not going anywhere. NBC has ordered its 2017 entry, a new spin on Bye Bye Birdie starring Jennifer Lopez, and Fox is mulling its post-Grease plan. In the meantime, NBC also is prepping a more sober entry: the live presentation of Aaron Sorkin's career-starting Broadway play, A Few Good Men.

Competition was stiff, with the Big Four airing nearly all originals. Fox's Empire topped the night in the key demo, earning a 2.5 rating among adults 18-49, though it was down three-tenths of a point to a series low. With 7 million viewers, it also marked the first time Empire ranked below CBS' Criminal Minds (7.7 million) in the hour. CBS' Survivor was the closest to approach Hairspray among total viewers, pulling in an audience of 8.4 million. 

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