TV Ratings: Religious Content and Basketball Fare Well on Easter Weekend

Religious content fared well in the week ending April 5, according to Nielsen. As families across the country celebrated Passover and Easter, networks celebrated the success of their religious programming, with specials including “A.D. The Bible Continues” and “The Dovekeepers” debuting in the top 15 highest-rated shows of the week.

NBC’s “A.D. The Bible Continues” drew 9.7 million viewers on Easter Sunday, making it the seventh most-watched program of the week. Though a respectable outing, the program’s numbers don’t come close to the big showing for History’s “The Bible,” which drew 13.1 million in 2013.

Part One of CBS’ “The Dovekeepers” pulled in close to 9 million viewers on Tuesday, good for No. 13 in the rankings. Part Two of the ancient Israel-set saga didn’t fare quite as well the next night, pulling in only 6.4 million viewers, a lackluster showing for the two-part film.

ABC’s special presentation of “The Ten Commandments” Sunday was also a crowd favorite, drawing its biggest audience in seven years (most likely due to its move from Saturday to Sunday). The classic film pulled in 6.9 million viewers on Easter.

The cablers also did well with their religious content; Fox News’ Friday telecast of “Killing Jesus” averaged 1.86 million viewers, up from the channel’s performance on Good Friday last year by 24% in total viewers. The previous week, the premiere of “Killing Jesus” on National Geographic Channel drew 3.7 million viewers — an all-time high for the network.

On the other end of the spectrum was the raunchy Comedy Central “Roast of Justin Bieber, which drew 4.4 million viewers on Monday, making it the third largest audience among the network’s 14 such events over the years. The only higher-rated “Roasts” were those of Charlie Sheen in 2011 (6.4 million) and Jeff Foxworthy in 2005 (6.0 million).

The return of AMC’s “Mad Men” was another popular secular offering, with its Sunday debut pulling in 2.3 million, matching its season premiere performance from last year.

The real ratings madness, though, came as a result of college basketball. The top-watched program of the week was Saturday’s Final Four game between Kentucky and Wisconsin, which drew 16.8 million viewers on TBS. Simulcast showings of the match-up on TNT and TruTV brought the total viewership to 22.6 million viewers.

The networks were led once again by CBS, averaging 8.1 million viewers, dominating the chart with “NCIS” netting 16.6 million viewers and “The Big Bang Theory” drawing 13.9 million viewers. ABC averaged 6.4 million viewers, ahead of NBC’s 5.8 million average.

For the week of March 30 to April 5, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: “College Basketball: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin,” TBS, 16.8 million; “NCIS,” CBS, 16.6 million; “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS, 13.9 million; “Dancing With The Stars,” ABC, 13.8 million; “The Voice,” NBC, 11.9 million; “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 10.7 million; “A.D. The Bible Continues,” NBC, 9.7 million; “Survivor,” CBS, 9.6 million; “Modern Family,” ABC, 9.4 million; “Scorpion,” CBS, 9.4 million.

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