Spielberg film posts boffo numbers for NBC

NBC’s commercial-free presentation of Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” paid off big in the ratings, with the Peacock web, which posted huge numbers, guaranteed to show ratings growth in the February sweeps compared to last year.

“Schindler’s List,” which won seven Academy Awards in 1994 including best picture, posted a 23.8 rating and 34 share in the 36 metered markets, according to Nielsen. National ratings will be released today. NBC estimated that 65 million people watched all or part of “Schindler’s List,” which more than double the roughly 25 million people that saw the film in theaters.

” ‘Schindler’s List’ is a movie about tolerance, something that seems to be on the decline in our society, so it’s very gratifying that last night’s presentation seemed to be able to strike a chord with so many viewers,” said NBC West Coast president Don Ohlmeyer.

NBC took a gamble that a 3-1/2-hour black-and-white film that has several scenes of disturbing violence regarding the Holocaust wouldn’t turn off viewers, especially with ABC running “Volcano: Fire on the Mountain” (12.0/17) and CBS launching the opener of its two-part miniseries “Night Sins” (9.9/14) and Fox countering with “The Simpsons” (9.8/14), “King of the Hill” (9.3/13) and “The X-Files” (11.3/16). For the night, NBC finished with a 22.0/32 in the metered markets. CBS was second with an 11.5/17, followed by ABC’s 10.1/15, Fox’s 9.4/14 and the WB’s 4.0/6. Overall, the four major broadcast webs were up a combined 10% in share over their Sunday season average.

NBC execs also said that airing the movie with hardly any edits, despite the violent imagery and the strong ratings results, is proof that, in Ohlmeyer’s words, “we as broadcasters should not be pressured into putting on bland, non-controversial programming to appease the over-zealous watchdogs who would like to control what the American public views.”

Ohlmeyer was making a veiled reference to D.C. lawmakers who this week will hold hearings on the recently implemented ratings system.

NBC acknowledged getting some viewer complaints about the telecast but not a significant amount.

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