“Titanic” sailed off with winning yet unspectacular numbers Sunday on NBC, while ABC won the night in total viewers thanks to a strong theatrical performance of its own from “The Santa Clause.”
According to prelim nationals from Nielsen, the four-hour network premiere of “Titanic” averaged a first-place 6.9/15 in adults 18-49 — NBC’s best showing on a Sunday without sports or specials since May 1997 (“The Odyssey”). It placed first in six of its eight half-hours, including the past five (8:30 to 11).
The highest-grossing pic of all time could not keep up with “Santa Clause” in total viewers, though, as the fourth airing of the Tim Allen starrer — boosted by a huge showing among kids — topped “Titanic” head to head (prelim 16.3 million to 15.5 million). For its four hours, “Titanic” averaged roughly 17 million viewers, placing NBC second on the night.
NBC estimates that 30 million people watched at least some of “Titanic” on Sunday — about one-fourth of the number of people who went through the turnstiles during the pic’s lengthy run at the box office. (Of course, many of the nearly 128 million tickets purchased in the U.S. came from repeat customers.)
The numbers are about in line or a tad bit below what most observers expected for “Titanic’s” maiden voyage on network television after repeated airings over the past 18 months on HBO. Even NBC and its high-powered promo machine were hard-pressed to make into an “event” a commercial-cluttered airing of a movie that its fans have seen at least several times by now.
Two years ago, Fox generated winning but similarly ho-hum numbers for its premiere of “Lost World: Jurassic Park” (9.6/22 in A18-49) — but that pic hadn’t aired on pay TV prior to its network bow. Last season, two theatrical premieres — “Men in Black” on NBC (7.7/18) and “Ransom” on ABC (7.0/17) — logged higher 18-49 ratings than “Titanic.”
NBC nabbed multiple airings of the blockbuster “Titanic” for a mere $30 million, having bid in late 1997 before the pic became a blockbuster.
The strong showing on Sunday, one of NBC’s weakest nights, helped the Peacock lengthen its November sweep lead among adults 18-49. Based on projections from prelim Nielsens over the weekend, Peacock leads in the demo with a 5.7/14 (up 4% vs. last year), followed by ABC (5.0/13, down 15%), Fox (4.6/12, down 6%) and CBS (3.7/9, down 5%).
ABC remains on NBC’s tail in total viewers with three nights left to be counted. The Peacock’s 13.9 million viewers is slightly more than the Alphabet’s 13.8 million, with CBS (12.1m) and Fox (9.8m) well behind.
The Alphabet net delivered its second best Sunday 18-49 rating of the season (prelim 6.3/14) behind solid perfs from “Santa Clause” (prelim 5.6/13), “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (6.7/13) and “The Practice” (7.2/17). It’s the second-best ratings this season for both the quizzer and drama.
“Millionaire” was the most watched show of the night (prelim 21.8 million), delivering its largest audience for any noncelebrity Sunday seg this season.
The intense competition sent Fox’s lineup to its lowest marks in four tries this season, although the net remained on top in adults 18-34.
No place like Homer’s
“The Simpsons” continues to perform well ahead of last year at this time, delivering a first-place 7.5/16 in adults 18-49 and 15 million viewers. It was the night’s No. 1 show among 18-49, 18-34 and teens.
CBS struggled through another soft Sunday despite one of the strongest National Football League overruns of the season (prelim 22.3 million, 7.9/20 in A18-49 for Dolphins-Colts). Net placed third on the night in viewers and a deep fourth in 18-49 (4.3/10), getting little help from “Touched by an Angel” (prelim 13.9m, 4.0/8 in A18-49) or made-for “The Moving of Sophia Myles” (prelim 11.2m, 3.1/7).