Memorial coverage attracts large audiences

BERLIN — Michael Jackson’s memorial service in Los Angeles captivated TV auds around Europe on Tuesday as millions tuned in at home and at public viewing events in major cities.

In Germany, some 20 million viewers followed the memorial on a number of channels, although the biggest winners were two small news outlets that devoted much of the day’s programming to Jackson’s death and legacy.

ProSiebenSat.1’s N24 scored the highest ratings in its history with its all-day reports and extended primetime coverage.

The live broadcasts beginning at 7 p.m. local time drew the biggest auds, with 3.84 million tuning in to pubcaster ARD, giving it a 15.6% share, and fellow pubcaster ZDF’s special report “Farewell to the King of Pop” attracting 3.31 million (12%).

But it was ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL’s respective news channels, N24 and N-TV, that saw the biggest above-average rating jumps, with N24 achieving an all-day share of 5.1% — its highest daily average ever. N24 was close behind with 4.9%. Both channels usually have a share of just over 1%. N-TV’s four-hour primetime coverage beginning at 6 p.m. attracted 1.31 million viewers and a 5.2% share, while N24 drew 1.29 million with its live broadcast, achieving a 4.8% share for its special report.

In Berlin, some 6,000 fans attended a free public viewing of the service at the city’s new O2 Arena, while in Cologne, Frankfurt and other cities, crowds amassed in multiplexes, bars and city squares to watch the event.

In the U.K., more than 6 million viewers watched the service. BBC2, which cleared its early evening schedule for the tribute, averaged 4 million viewers and a 19% share between 6-8.45 p.m., peaking at 5.2 million for the final 15 minutes, according to overnight figures.

BBC2’s coverage was the most watched program on any U.K. web between 8-8.45 p.m.

Some 1.2 million watched the event on Five between 6.30-9 p.m. for a 5% share, peaking at 1.4 million for the 15 minutes from 8 p.m.

Sky News achieved some of its highest viewing figures since the U.S.- led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Its average audience was 897,000, peaking at 1.16 million in the quarter hour from 8.15 p.m.

In Italy, the memorial scored a stellar 15.7% audience share on Mediaset’s youth-oriented Italia 1 channel, accounting for some 15 million viewers.

Studio commentators during the ceremony included Franco Tunisian entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar, Jackson’s former manager, who lashed out against his doctors and against those who, as he put it, “smeared” Jackson with accusations of pedophilia.

Spanish channel Cuatro scored an 11.7% share and 1.1 million viewers with its special show “Michael Jackson: homenaje al rey del pop.”

The coverage boosted Cuatro’s share by five points above its average in that timeslot and gave the Sogecable web its best audience figures for a non-sports programming result since it launched in 2005.

With a 13% share and 1.3 million, Antena 3 TV’s magazine “Tal cual lo contamos” improved its results but more modestly than Cuatro.

Pubcaster RTVE’s La 1 offered a special edition of its daily magazine “Gente” dedicated to Jackson. Averaging 12.5% and 1.1 million, “Gente” underperformed compared with its regular 14% share.

In France, the memorial aired live on TF1, France 2 and M6, nabbing a total of 51.2% of audience share.

TF1 led the ratings with 26.8%, followed by France 2 with 15.4% and M6 with 9.6%.

Nick Vivarelli in Rome, Emiliano de Pablos in Madrid, Elsa Keslassy in Paris and Steve Clarke in London contributed to this report.

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