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NBC’s ‘A.D.’ Leads Easter Sunday But Can’t Match ‘The Bible’

NBC scored on Easter Sunday with the premiere of “A.D. The Bible Continues,” which was the night’s top-rated program even if it wasn’t as strong as the 2013 version of “The Bible” on cable network History. It was slower going, though, for the net’s launch of “American Odyssey” in the night’s closing hour.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “A.D. The Bible Continues” averaged a 2.3 rating/7 share in adults 18-49 and 9.5 million viewers overall in the 9 o’clock hour, more than doubling its lead-in from “Dateline” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall) and also more than doubling the Peacock’s recent average in the Sunday-at-9 hour with specials (1.1). One week after AMC’s “The Walking Dead” wrapped, the NBC newcomer figures to stand as Sunday’s No. 1 program in both 18-49 and 25-54 (3.0/7).

Among all NBC series premieres this season, “A.D.” ties with comedy “Marry Me” (2.3) and is slightly higher than drama “State of Affairs” (2.2), though both of these benefited from a “The Voice” lead-in. In total viewers, “A.D.” ranks second to “The Mysteries of Laura” (10.19 million, airing following “America’s Got Talent”) among NBC series openers this season.

Among all NBC dramas to premiere without a lead-in from “The Voice,” last night’s “A.D.” premiere rates as the highest in 18-49 since “The Cape” on a Sunday in January 2011 (2.6). Last spring, the premiere of “Believe” did a 1.5 rating in the same 9 o’clock hour for NBC.

The 12-episode “A.D.” series is a followup to the 2013 miniseries “The Bible,” which averaged a 3.3 rating in adults 18-49 and drew a whopping 13.1 million viewers — one of the largest audiences ever for a cable program. This version, which also hails from executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, picks up from there and centers primarily on the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

ABC may have stolen away some potential “Bible” viewers with its annual airing of the Charlton Heston theatrical “The Ten Commandments,” which averaged a 1.4/5 in 18-49 and 6.8 million viewers overall and lifted the Alphabet to a nightly demo victory among the Big Four. The network has been airing the movie on Saturdays in recent years, but no doubt saw an opportunity to try and blunt the NBC premiere by moving to Easter Sunday this time. Head-to-head, “A.D.” handily beat “Ten Commandments” (2.3 vs. 1.4 in 18-49 and 9.5 million vs. 6.9 million in total viewers). And not surprisingly, the classic film saw a drop when it went head to head with the NBC program — going from a 1.6 in the demo in the 8 o’clock hour to a 1.4 from 9 to 10 p.m. before bouncing back to a 1.5 in primetime’s final hour.

This was the best demo score in three years and the largest overall audience in seven years for “Ten Commandments.” ABC hasn’t aired it on Easter Sunday since 2004.

Following the premiere of “A.D. The Bible Continues,” NBC’s “American Odyssey” averaged a 1.2/4 in 18-49 and 5.4 million viewers overall, ranking second to “Ten Commandments” among the major networks. The 1.2 is only slightly better than the 1.1 generated by the recent premieres of the net’s dramas “The Slap” and “Allegiance” on Thursday.

Elsewhere, CBS ran originals of its regular lineup to soft numbers while winning the night in total viewers: “60 Minutes” (0.9/4 in 18-49, 7.7 million viewers overall), “Madam Secretary” (1.1/4 in 18-49, 9.1 million viewers overall), “The Good Wife” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall) and “Battle Creek” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 5.7 million viewers overall). Each show matched or set a season low in 18-49.

Fox aired repeats of its animated comedies, including “The Simpsons” at 8 (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall) and “Family Guy” at 8:30 (1.1/3 in 18-49, 2.4 million viewers overall), followed by an hourlong encore of “The Last Man on Earth” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.0 million viewers overall).

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