Huge aud eyes Eye’s ‘9/11’

Prelim data points to season's most-watched nonsports sponsored b'cast

Nearly 40 million viewers tuned in to watch Sunday’s controversial two-hour CBS spec “9/11”– proving that auds are still keenly interested in programming related to the September terror attacks.

Robert De Niro-hosted special, which featured previously unbroadcast footage from inside the World Trade Center, scored a 16.2 rating/34 share with adults 18-49 and attracted an averaged aud of 38.98 million viewers, according to prelim Nielsen data released Monday. If the numbers hold, “9/11” will rank as the most-watched nonsports sponsored broadcast of the season.

Some family members of the victims of Sept. 11 had complained about the program, fearing it would open up new wounds. Critics, however, were generally effusive in their praise of the project, which was exec produced by CBS News’ Susan Zirinsky and Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter and David Friend. “9/11” used footage shot by producers Gedeon and Jules Naudet.

Nielsen numbers for the program built through most of the evening. Thirty-five million viewers tuned in at 9 p.m. for the start of the program; by 10, that number was up to a little more than 42 million. Aud slipped a bit in the 10:30 half-hour.

Top performer

CBS dominated the 9-11 p.m. slot, with “9/11” drawing almost twice as many viewers as ABC and NBC combined in the 10 p.m. hour.

Spec featured a sole sponsor and only three interruptions for public service announcements, so the Eye didn’t gain any direct financial windfall from broadcasting “9/11.”

However, early tune-in may have helped bring more viewers to 8 p.m. drama “The Education of Max Bickford” (prelim 3.1/6, 12.64 million). If final numbers hold up, that will be the show’s best performance since its premiere in the fall.

First part of the night was won by Fox, which finished ahead of the pack in adults 18-49 from 7-9 p.m. with its usual laffer lineup. With NBC’s Olympic glow having faded, “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle” had their best demo numbers since Jan. 27.

Opposite “9/11,” Fox’s “The X-Files” dipped from last week but earned about the same numbers it had been averaging in January. ABC’s “Alias” and “The Practice” took more of a beating in the key demos, dropping about 30% from their Sunday norms.

Flying under the radar

As usual, ABC’s buzzworthy “Alias” suffered the misfortune of having a key episode — this one featuring a guest turn by 007 legend Roger Moore — broadcast against a major event. Skein previously had important segs compete against the Golden Globes and the Olympics.

NBC wasn’t a factor at all, with “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” performing weakly at 9 p.m. and a celeb edition of “Weakest Link” doing little business. From 7-9 p.m., National Basketball Assn. coverage produced the sort of awful numbers that make the Peacock’s decision to dump hoops look brilliant.

For the night, CBS was far in front with a prelim total viewer tally of 26.77 million. Fox (10.01 million) came in second, followed by ABC (9.59m) and NBC (6.13m).

In adults 18-49, the tallies were CBS (9.6/22), Fox (5.0/12), ABC (3.4/8) and NBC (2.2/5).

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