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History Scores Big With ‘The Bible’ and ‘The Vikings’

Miniseries from Mark Burnett, Roma Downey bows to 13.1 million

History took a big step forward in its quest to be seen as a home for scripted programming with strong premiere numbers Sunday for its miniseries  “The Bible” and series “The Vikings.”

The Bible,” a five-week, 10-hour epic whose exec producers include Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, averaged a boffo 13.1 million viewers for its 8-10 p.m. premiere, and 14.8 million if you count its quickie repeat. This makes it the most-watched entertainment program on cable since the net’s own “Hatfields & McCoys” wrapped its impressive three-night run in late May with 14.3 million for its initial airing.

No program drew more viewers Sunday than “The Bible.”  CBS’ “60 Minutes” drew the largest audience on the broadcast networks (11.9 million).

“The Bible” also drew roughly 4.4 million adults 18-49 for its premiere (about a 3.5 national rating) and 5 million for its two telecasts. Toss in AMC’s top-rated “The Walking Dead,” and cable figures to account for the night’s top two telecasts in 18-49.

In adults 25-54, “The Bible” averaged 4.6 million for the first airing and 5.6 million total for its two plays Sunday night.  The show will air on Sundays throughout the month, capped by its finale on Easter Sunday (March 31).

Following “The Bible,” History’s first full-length original scripted series, “The Vikings,” opened to 6.2 million viewers (and 8.3 million for its two telecasts) and 2.5 million adults 18-49 (3.4 million overall). The roughly 2.0 national rating in 18-49 for the series about Scandinavian scavengers bested all of the broadcast networks’ offerings in the 10 p.m. hour (“Celebrity Apprentice,” “The Mentalist” and “Red Widow”).

The Vikings,” starring Travis Fimmel and Gabriel Byrne, is an international Irish/Canadian co-production between World 2000 and Take 5 Productions.

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