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Ratings: ‘The Passion’ Musical Event Solid But Unspectacular for Fox

The Passion,” Fox’s live musical telling of Jesus Christ’s final days on earth, couldn’t come close to matching the ratings results of recent straight-on television musicals, but it did provide the network with solid ratings Sunday night against some stiff competition, including NBC’s hot newcomer “Little Big Shots” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

The event, narrated from New Orleans by Tyler Perry and featuring performances by Trisha Yearwood, Chris Daughtry, Seal and others, averaged a 1.6 rating/5 share in adults 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers overall, according to preliminary national estimates. It placed second in demos and third in total viewers among the broadcasters from 8 to 10 p.m., airing live in much of the country and tape-delayed in the West.

By way of comparison, “The Passion” improved upon the network’s averaged in the same window one week ago (with its comedy block led by “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”) by 45% in 18-49 (1.6 vs. 1.1) and by 153% in total viewers (6.6 million vs. 2.6 million). It paled, though, in comparison to the network’s Jan. 31 production of “Grease Live,” which averaged a strong 4.3/13 in 18-49 and 12.21 million total viewers to become television’s top-rated musical since NBC’s “The Sound of Music Live” in December 2013.

Looking closer at the numbers for “The Passion,” roughly 59% of its adults 18-49 audience was female, and its strongest demo among viewers under 55 was women 25-54 (2.6/7). Ratings grew from start to finish, opening with a 1.4 in 18-49 and 5.9 million viewers at 8 p.m. and concluding in the 9:30 p.m. half-hour with a 1.8 and 7.5 million.

Among the top 25 markets, “The Passion” under-performed its national adults 18-49 average of 1.6 in New York and Los Angeles (1.3 rating). It was well above average, though, in Philadelphia (2.3), Dallas (2.1), Washington, D.C. (2.7), Atlanta (3.3), Cleveland (2.9) and did its highest rating in St. Louis (3.6).

Related Content ‘The Passion’: Breaking Down Fox’s Live Music Event

It was unfair to expect “The Passion” to attract an audience on par with “Grease Live,” which was a traditional musical and one of the most well-known and beloved ones at that. Also, “Grease” aired at a time of the year when primetime viewing levels are higher, didn’t have to face either “Little Big Shots” or “The Walking Dead,” and was heavily promoted in the prior week during Fox’s highest-rated telecast of the year, the Jan. 24 NFL conference championship game between the Carolina Panthers and Arizona Cardinals.

According to Nielsen Social, “The Passion” was the most social broadcast program on Sunday night, drawing 18.4 million impressions for its tweets. In addition, “The Passion: New Orleans” album currently ranks No. 1 on iTunes.

Netflix on Saturday secured worldwide distribution rights to “The Passion” for outside the U.S., with the musical to be available in most international territories starting Tuesday. In the Netherlands, where the format began and has been a popular annual draw since 2011, it will be available starting Friday.

Elsewhere on Sunday, NBC’s “Little Big Shots” continued to impress, averaging a 2.6 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 13.2 million viewers overall in the 8 o’clock hour — this despite going up against “The Passion” and college basketball on cable. It was the night’s No. 1 broadcast in both categories, retaining 93% of its time-period demo rating of last week (2.8).

“The Carmichael Show” followed at 9 p.m. (1.4/4 in 18-49, 5.4 million viewers overall), on par with its finals average last week (and a tick below its prelim 1.5) and placing second among the Big Four in 18-49. It was a sluggish timeslot start, meanwhile, for “Crowded” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.8 million overall), which tied in 18-49 with CBS’ “The Good Wife” while beating ABC’s “The Family.” And at 10 p.m., “Hollywood Game Night” posted a 0.7/2 in 18-49 and 2.7 million total viewers.

It was an ugly night for ABC’s drama lineup following steady leadoff hitter “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (1.1/4 in 18-49, 5.4 million viewers overall). “Once Upon a Time” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall) was down 0.2 to its series low, while rookies “The Family” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.6 million viewers overall) and “Quantico” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall) also hit lows.

Numbers for CBS are subject to revision due to a college basketball overrun, but “60 Minutes” averaged roughly a 1.7/6 in 18-49 and 10.2 million viewers overall from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.. It was followed by “Madam Secretary” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 9.2 million viewers overall), “The Good Wife” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall) and “Elementary” in its Sunday debut (0.8/3 in 18-49, 5.6 million viewers overall). “Elementary” has always been one of the biggest gainers in time-shifted viewing (adding 90% or more to its 18-49 rating most weeks in Live+7), and it could see even bigger boosts in this challenging new timeslot.

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