An average of 13 million people watched Nick Wallenda slowly walk a wire across the Colorado River Gorge while conducting a running dialogue with God and Jesus last night on Discovery Channel. “Oh, I praise you, Jesus. Lord, help this cable to calm down — command it,” the 34-year-old aerialist suggested a few yards into his quarter-mile “Skywire” stunt. Wallenda was not wearing a harness but had a microphone and two cameras — including one that looked down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one that was focused dead ahead. Discovery telecast the ratings grab with a 10-second delay in the U.S. and a couple hundred other countries. The two-hour event delivered 8.5 million total viewers — jumping to 13 million during the actual walk.
Note to Wallenda: you might want to re-think the whole “no harness” thing, because the extra dange did not goose your ratings. They were on par with the numbers you clocked for your last made-for-TV high-wire act, crossing Niagara Falls for ABC. That stunt, which ABC aired last June, averaged 10.1 million viewers, peaking at 13.1 million viewers during the walk.
Anyway, Discovery noted this morning Sunday’s stunt shattered records across numerous platforms including social media, where Wallenda generated 1.3 million tweets becoming the #1 most social show across broadcast and cable in the U.S.
For comparison sake: during the 9:30-10 half hour, in which Wallenda was actually walking the wire and clocking 13 million viewers, ABC’s Whodunnit? logged 3.8 million people, CBS’s The Good Wife rerun snared 3.3 mil, NBC’s Crossing Lines bagged 4.2 mil and Fox’s American Dad repeat popped 3.2 mil.
Wallenda, sporting a Discovery Channel ad on his chest, crossed the gorge on a 2-inch-thick steel cable suspended about 1,500 feet above the floor of the gorge — slightly higher than the Empire State Building. At the three-quarter mark, he began praising Discovery, its general manager Eileen O’Neill, and others at the Silver Spring, MD-based basic cable network. Heading into the final feet, he knelt, blew viewers a kiss, gave a thumbs up, then sprinted to safety. “The first human to ever cross the Grand Canyon on a wire!” proclaimed Today’s Willie Geist at the finish line (the Today Show‘s B-team, Geist and Natalie Morales, hosted the telecast, which was produced for Discovery by NBCUniversal’s Peacock Productions). Discovery too had billed the stunt as Wallenda’s walk across the Grand Canyon, but accuracy sticklers, like the Associated Press and other news organizations, noted the quarter-mile walk was conducted over the Little Colorado River Gorge in northern Arizona, on the Navajo Nation near the Grand Canyon.
After the stunt wrapped, Geist noted he and Morales were supposed to have chatted with Wallenda while he made his walk, but that it became clear early on in the event that would be wildly distracting/inappropriate. Today did get to exclusive Wallenda interview this morning.