The allure of live event programming was on display again Sunday night, as Fox’s live three-hour production of “Grease Live” drew the best ratings for a musical since NBC’s “Sound of Music Live” in December 2013.
“Grease Live,” starring Julianne Hough and Aaron Tveit in the roles popularized in the 1978 film version by Olivia-Newton John and John Travolta, averaged a 4.3 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 12.2 million viewers overall from 7 to 10 p.m., according to Nielsen prelims, peaking with a 4.6/13 in the demo and 12.81 million viewers overall in its final half-hour. It fared best among younger viewers, garnering a 3.7 rating in both teens 12-17 and adults 18-34 — besting NBC’s recent “Wiz Live!” by 68% and 48%, respectively.
Sunday’s live musical is Fox’s second highest-rated night of entertainment programming (non-sports) of the season in 18-49 (behind the night of the “Empire” season premiere), and its largest overall audience for any night this season (eclipsing the 11 million for the premiere of “American Idol”).
The Paramount Television production, directed by Alex Rudzinski and Thomas Kail of the Broadway smash “Hamilton,” skewed female as expected, especially among younger viewers. Roughly 73% of its teens 12-17 audience was comprised of females, while 69% of the event’s 18-34 audience was women, and 62% of its adults 25-54 audience was female.
Sunday’s event out-rated NBC’s two most recent live musicals, “Wiz Live!” in December (3.4/11 in 18-49 and 11.50 million viewers overall) and “Peter Pan Live!” one year earlier (2.4/7 in 18-49, 9.21 million viewers overall). The ratings champ of musicals remains the Peacock’s “Sound of Music Live!” with Carrie Underwood, which averaged a 4.6/13 in the demo and 18.62 million viewers overall.
“Grease Live!” was well-received by critics, with the only noticeable glitch production-wise coming during Julianne Hough’s performance of “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” when microphone static was audible. Producers worked to address the issue for the tape-delayed West Coast airing.
“Grease Live!” was very popular on the social media front as well, with the performance garnering 1.397 million tweets during the 8-11 p.m. ET window, according to marketing technology company Amobee Brand Intelligence — just a smidge more than the 1.374 million tweets for NBC’s “Wiz Live!” in December. Twitter sentiment around the official #GreaseLive hashtag was 34% positive, 55% neutral and 11% negative.
The most talked-about performer of the evening was Vanessa Hudgens, who was mentioned in 90,756 tweets, whose sentiment was 57% positive, 36% neutral and 7% negative. The most discussed song was “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” which generated 32,508 tweets while it aired.
According to Fox, roughly 2.2 million people viewed the network’s 13 backstage live Facebook videos, hosted by Mario Lopez and Jeannie Klisiewicz from “Ellen.”
Overall, “Grease Live” captured more than 1.6 million social actions (likes, shares, comments and retweets) across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, making it the highest socially engaged live musical performance this far, according to Shareablee, a social-data analysis company.