ABC rested its hot “Desperate Housewives” Sunday but remained the night’s top-rated network thanks to a strong showing for telepic “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.”
Masterfully promoted and timed to air outside the clutter of sweeps, “Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven” averaged a hefty 6.5 rating/15 share in adults 18-49 and 19.3 million viewers overall, according to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen.
Single-part movie is ABC’s most watched since “Amy & Isabelle,” an “Oprah Winfrey Presents” original, in March 2001. And it’s the top-rated single-part scripted movie on any net since Fox aired “Star Wars” in November 2001.
“Heaven” drew a broad aud, winning its 8-11 p.m. slot in key 18-54 adult demos as well as kids, teens and adults 50-plus.
Five years earlier to the day (Dec. 5, 1999), Albom’s “Tuesdays With Morrie” was similarly a big hit, averaging a 7.6/17 in 18-49 and 22.5 million viewers overall for its premiere.
NBC effectively counterprogrammed Sunday with a repeat of Nicolas Cage pic “The Family Man” (prelim 4.0/9 in 18-49, 9.9 million), which became the top-rated theatrical of the season in 18-49.
CBS, though, had a lump of coal in its stocking with original holiday pic “A Very Married Christmas” (2.2/5 in 18-49, 9.2 million).
Although ABC won the night with ease in key demos as well as total viewers, “Heaven” actually underperformed the net’s boffo 18-49 average in the time period this season with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Boston Legal” (6.5/15 vs. 7.3/17).