MTV nets 1.4 million viewers while BBC draws 6.6 mil

This article was updated on July 7, 2005

Saturday’s Live 8 concerts went out globally on more than 140 TV stations, making them available to around 85% of the world’s population.

But how well they did in the ratings depends on the choice of broadcaster — free-to-air coverage clearly did better than pay channels — while certain territories notched much better numbers than others.

Stateside, basic-cable music webs MTV and VH1 aired the concerts from noon to 8 p.m. ET.

MTV notched 1.4 million viewers, including 838,000 adults 18-49 and 217,000 teens 12-17, while VH1 managed 762,000 viewers, including 481,000 adults 18-49 and 122,000 teens 12-17. The two networks aired the same show.

MTV was widely criticized for its poor coverage, frequently cutting to talking heads and breaking away from bands onstage in Philadelphia, London, Berlin, Paris, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Barrie, Canada; shows in Rome, Moscow and Cornwall, England, were not aired at all.

Many swapped the music webs for the Web, logging on to AOL for uninterrupted music.

Average audience for the 12-hour broadcast on free-to-air BBC1 in the U.K. was 6.6 million, with a peak of 9.6 million.

Interest was high in the U.K.; Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof lives in London, where some 200,000 people watched the gig in Hyde Park featuring Paul McCartney, Madonna, R.E.M. and a reunited Pink Floyd.

In France, 100,000 people attended the concert at Versailles, and 10 hours of the show plus highlights from London were aired on commercial terrestrial broadcaster M6. However, M6 cut away to three episodes of “Smallville” from 9 to 11:30 p.m. before rejoining the gigs.

At 5 p.m., some 1.3 million viewers were watching, a 12.4% audience share compared with M6′s average in that timeslot of 11.5%. At 8, audience was up to 1.9 million, 12.5% audience share compared with 9.5% on average. But by 11:30 M6′s usual 14% audience share had slipped to 9.6%.

In Germany, Live 8 was broadcast by 10 regional weblets in pubcaster ARD’s network. While ARD’s main nationwide channel, Das Erste, was reserved for the Tour de France cycle race, the various regional affiliates made the event available for free to every household on TV and radio.

Nationwide, 1.25 million viewers saw the show in primetime, “which is excellent for music on TV,” said a producer in charge of the event at Berlin-based RBB.

In Canada, the aud for the 18-hour, 23-minute broadcast — the longest single-program ever aired on commercial broadcaster CTV — peaked at just after 8 p.m., when more than 2 million tuned in to catch Neil Young close the Barrie, Ontario, show with his anthem “Rockin’ in the Free World.” The average audience was just under 1 million viewers.

The Moscow gig near the Kremlin walls was organized in just two weeks and headlined by British band Pet Shop Boys.

Although backed by leading national broadcaster Channel 1 — whose veteran anchor Vladimir Pozner put in a personal call to the Kremlin to get it up and running — the event was a nonstarter. The show had a 10.1% share in Moscow and 16.1% nationwide, but the actual auds were far smaller than these figures suggest as the show started at midnight, when few people were watching.

The Live 8 concert in downtown Johannesburg was a late addition to the lineup after complaints that the event, with its big focus on Africa, was ignoring the continent.

Besides the appearance of Nelson Mandela, it turned out to be a low-key event featuring predominantly South African musicians and attended by around 10,000 people.

Live broadcast was carried only on satcaster Multichoice’s Channel Africa, preventing most of South Africa’s 40 million people from seeing it. Multichoice Africa has some 1.3 million subscribers across Africa, most of them in South Africa.

In Italy the Live 8 gigs aired for its entire duration on pubcaster RAI and paybox Sky Italia, to ratings that turned out to be good, but not great.

On RAI-3 the concert drew a peak 19.6 % audience share in the afternoon, and a 12.13% share in evening primetime, when it drew two million viewers, according to national ratings monitor Auditel.

More than twice as many Italians tuned in to the Palio, the bareback horserace run every year in Siena’s Piazza del Campo, which scored a 26% primetime share on RAI-2.

And even “Sei un mito” (“You’re a Myth”), a variety show featuring half-naked dancing girls and comic skits, bested Live 8 with a 25% primetime share on Mediaset’s Canale 5.

While the RAI coverage focused on the Italian concert at Rome’s Circus Maximus with live hookups from the rest of the world satcaster Sky offered active Live 8 coverage, giving subs the choice of picking which global gig they wanted to watch.

Sky’s service scored a 10.4% audience share in the day and a 7.15% share at night.

(Rick Kissell in Hollywood, Steve Clarke in London, Alison James in Paris, Christian Koehl in Cologne, Tom Birchenough in Moscow, Brendan Kelly in Montreal and Christelle de Jager in Johannesburg contributed to this report.)

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