Christmas classics keep kiddies glued to the tube

Turns out Rudolph’s red nose isn’t the only holiday special shining bright this year.

Industry types took notice when CBS’s 41st annual broadcast of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on Nov. 30 turned in its best Nielsen performance since 2000, more than doubling the young-adult demos of its nearest timeslot rival. Auspicious perf was just the first of several boffo numbers for holiday chestnuts this year.

A few days later, the 40th-anni broadcast of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” earned its biggest numbers since moving to ABC in 2001. Even the WB got into the act, with “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” racking up impressive year-to-year gains — especially among teen demos.

Webheads aren’t sure why their holiday chestnuts are on fire this year, but one wag thinks it might be the result of improved promotion and planning as nets have gotten wise to the ratings potential of the classics.

“With better scheduling, you increase your upside in terms of (ratings),” says CBS senior exec VP Kelly Kahl. “These are important properties for us. You don’t want to sell them short.”

What’s more, there’s some serious coin at stake, since advertisers love the toons’ multigenerational appeal. “These shows are traditionally among the quickest specials to sell out in the upfront,” Kahl says.

Cool Yule numbers are particularly impressive given the fact that most of the big holiday specials now are available on DVD. When it comes to Christmas, however, it seems tradition trumps convenience.

“People look for when these shows are going to air, and they like to gather around and watch together,” Kahl says.

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