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That’s up from Peter Pan Live, which managed a 2.3 rating with adults 18-49 and 9.1 million viewers, and likely to rise even higher when final adjustments come in from Nielsen later on Friday.
2013’s The Sound of Music Live remains the standard of for success. Broadcast TV’s first live musical staging in decades nabbed a winning 4.6 rating in the key demo and an obscene 18.6 million viewers. It set a bar that Peter Pan was never going to top, but that 50 percent drop stung.
NBC was clearly angling to turn the ratings decline around with The Wiz. Chairman Bob Greenblatt, a Broadway vet whose championed live telecasts since taking the reins at the network, spoke candidly about the ratings dip with Peter Pan. “In spite of the fact that there was a lot of critical negativity, I think Carrie Underwood was an enormous amount of draw for The Sound of Music,” Greenblatt told reporters in January. “Peter Pan’s not as well known as a show… We didn’t have stars that were as big as Carrie.”
The Wiz suffered no shortage of high-wattage stars. Dorothy may have been played by newcomer Shanice Williams, who the network found at an open casting call, the supporting players were almost exclusively boldface names. Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Common and Uzo Aduba toplined the rest of the ensemble.
Though this marks the third consecutive December where NBC has aired a live musical production, Greenblatt has been very shy to ever commit to making it an official “annual” event. It’s hard to imagine there won’t be another outing in 2016, however, now that The Wiz has prompted a ratings turnaround — however modest.
And, either way, viewers won’t have to wait another year for a live musical telecast. Fox has been plotting a staging of its own, setting Grease: Live for Jan. 31.
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