Bruce Jenner Interview Ratings: 17 Million Watch ABC Special

Bruce Jenner Transition
Courtesy of ABC

Audiences turned out in big numbers Friday night for ABC’s much-anticipated two-hour Bruce Jenner interview on “20/20,” which drew the newsmagazine’s highest ratings in key demos on the night in more than 15 years.

Nielsen estimates that Diane Sawyer’s sitdown with the former Olympic decathlete-turned-reality star averaged a 5.2 rating/17 share in adults 18-49 and 16.9 million viewers overall. That will make it the week’s top-rated program in all categories as well as the top non-sports program in the young-adults demo since the season finale of Fox’s “Empire” in mid-March.

This is the best 18-49 result on a Friday for “20/20” since March 2000, when Barbara Walters interviewed the parents of JonBenet Ramsey. And it’s the highest for any Friday non-sports broadcast on any network since 2003.

“20/20” opened at 9 p.m. with a 4.9 rating/17 share in 18-49 and 16.4 million viewers overall and then grew both at 9:30 (5.1/17 in 18-49, 17.0 million) and 10 (5.4/18, 17.2 million) before dipping in the final 30 minutes (5.2/18, 16.8 million). Roughly 68% of the 18-49 audience for the special was female, according to Nielsen.

“20/20” had been averaging about a 1.3 demo rating and nearly 6 million total viewers year-to-date. And prior to last night, the highest demo rating for the newsmag over the past 12 months had come last May when V. Stiviano, the female friend of disgraced Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, sat down for an interview with Barbara Walters (a 1.7 rating/6 share). Its largest overall audience during the past 12 months also came last May, for the two-hour “20/20” special “Barbara Walters: Her Story,” which drew 9.6 million.

The largest audience for any Friday non-sports program during this television season was the 12.86 million who watched CBS drama “Blue Bloods” on Jan. 9.

“Bruce Jenner: The Interview” would have drawn even more viewers on a night other than lightly watched Friday, and as a result this might be the first example of a highly promoted primetime interview — generally seen as must-watch that night — that will fare reasonably well in DVR playback in the days ahead.

Last night’s interview, of course, was also a very big topic of conversation on social media. According to Nielsen Social, “Bruce Jenner: The Interview” drew 972,000 tweets from 403,000 unique authors, ranking as the most social Friday telecast of all time, excluding sports. Sawyer’s interview with Jenner outperformed the prior record-holder, ABC’s “Megastunts: Highwire Over Niagara Falls — Live!” in June 2012, by 155% in unique authors and by 237% in total tweets.

Following general program descriptors including #brucejennerabc, #brucejenner and #brucejennerinterview, the top hashtags used on Twitter for the interview were phrases of support: #brave and #bebraveenoughtobekind.

Relative to the competition on Friday night, ABC with “Bruce Jenner: The Interview” and “Shark Tank” in its new 8 p.m. timeslot (1.7/7 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall) outdrew the combined demo totals of rivals CBS, NBC and Fox (2.9) and drew nearly as many total viewers as them combined (13.8 million vs. 14.4 million). For the night, ABC’s 4.0 rating is the highest for any network on a Friday (excluding sports) since NBC in April 2003.

“Shark Tank” was up 13% from its most recent original of last week at 9 p.m. (1.5) — and the show is certain to adjust up to a 1.8 in the nationals, which would mean a 20% surge.

NBC’s “Dateline” impressively matched its week-ago rating (0.9/3 in 18-49, 4.3 million viewers overall) despite airing the same time as the “20/20” special. CBS’ “Blue Bloods” was the show most affected (1.0/3 in 18-49, 9.8 million viewers overall), hitting season lows.

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  1. Marie says:

    Seventeen million people who could not find something better to do?! What has this world come to?

  2. Marie says:

    Might as well change VARIETY to something with Bruce Jenner in the title.

    Got enough stories about this? Gimme a break!

  3. Tammy Erickson says:

    Hell ya bruce, do what makes u happy.if others got somethin to say,piss on them.u go boyyy!!!!!!!!! Girl or whatevet floats your boat…

  4. rae says:

    We don’t have to understand why he is doing this. We cannot always be in someone else’s shoes. As long as he is happy , that all that matters.

  5. arlene goodart says:

    I give him support for having the courage to come out regarding his transgender issue. Now having said that, I am having difficulty understanding how he can transform into a woman but not have a desire for men. I have heard the scientific explanation — but I still don’t get it…..I wish I did. In any case, good luck Bruce you have a difficult road ahead.

  6. sjsims says:


    Prayers for Bruce and the struggles he’s facing. Hope Bruce finds his way, whichever way that is. <3

  7. Cecil B Da Mill says:

    Hilarious-Bruce is a republican and liberals are peeing all over themselves. What a hoot, ha ha ha

    • Pamela says:

      I don’t know any liberals “peeing” about this. The ones I’ve spoken to have had nothing but compassion for him. Actually, it’s the conservatives who’ve been judgemental & cruel.

  8. jim says:

    n the hell is this news who cares

  9. i know hesaid he is a woman he will never think like a woman and he talks about God giving him a issue in his life it says in the bible i created you in your motherrs womb God doesnt not makr mistakes peope do i believe hee is a man and always will be ione i think there other issues i really do not think he will be happy w this He really needs tpprqt and fast and seek the Lorrd alot off problems are not emontional they cone ffrom another source i i dont think truly he is walking w the Lord

    • Paige Jackson says:

      The phrase is in Psalm 139 and includes the phrase “…you knitted me together inside my mother’s womb . . .” Psalm 139 is an acknowledgement that God made us, knows us, and that who we are is not hidden from Him at any time or place. Ironically for Sandy, Psalm 139 is a favorite among the transgender community. For it says to us that God knew our true gender before we did and that we need not fear God so long as we live true to ourselves as He created us.

    • Pamela says:

      You’ve never heard of birth defects (of which I believe this condition is a doozy of one)?! Perhaps this “mistake” was for people like you who insist on judging & demeaning others whose stuggles are too complex for you to understand. Perhaps God is trying to open your eyes to love & compassion for all his creatures, no matter how different they are from you. Think about it.

      • Tammy Erickson says:

        I think you r going to hell for judging, u bible thumper.u dont no shit about walking with god.i hate haters.c u in hell!!!!

    • James Green says:

      If you can write ignorant things, You should at the very lease learn how to spell correctly. Who are you to judge anyone, I hate when people make Ignorant statement and do so in the name of God. You are not God, you can not speak for God, you are not messager for the Lord. If you think you have the right to do so, then by your own bible you are a false prophet. You don’t like his transition, you think there something mentally wrong with him, you think it’s sad and if you’re Christian, remember that Jesus said he who throws the first stone.. You are just Stupid and need to reread your bible and Dictionary while you’re at it.

  10. 1favored says:

    What do the J-K’s offer beyond what goes on between their legs???

  11. Is it Bruce or Brucie, now? says:

    The highest rated Friday night of television since 2003???? Geez! I would have thought the Friday night when Nick Walenda walked across Niagara Falls on a tight rope would have been just as high. If I remember correctly, that drew a huge rating!?! Maybe not big enough or perhaps it aired on a different night of the week.

  12. He’ll make one ugly woman! I don’t care what kind of surgery or how much.

  13. Billy Bob says:

    Kudos to Dianne for bringing the subject into the main stream but her actual interview style was probably the worst I have seen her do.
    Having met some transsexuals and read about many others I do not think Bruce fits the description. He doesn’t feel he’s trapped in the wrong body and is not attracted to men.
    I believe he’s interested in the transvestism part of his persona and his idea of glamour attached to it more than anything else.

  14. stefdag says:

    Reblogged this on Thoughts & Things and commented:
    This was incredible.

  15. Kelliann says:

    Really really tired of Bruce Jenner. Blah. Over-hyped. Wish you’d just shut up about this guy instead of making money off him.

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