Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel this morning declared today Nik Wallenda Day in the city because Wallenda did not plunge to his death last night as he tightrope-walked from skyscraper to skyscraper. Wallenda’s ratings, however, weren’t so lucky.
This morning, Discovery Channel sliced and diced the numbers to come up with the best possible story, reporting that the two minutes — that’s two minutes — that Wallenda walked blindfolded between two towers, which was the second and far shorter leg of his two-leg walk, he clocked 6.72 million viewers, including 2.55 million 25- to 54-year-olds. The first, much longer walk — it was seven whole minutes long — in which he traversed two city blocks while suspended nearly 600 feet in the air, including a record-breaking 19-degree incline, averaged just 5.84 million viewers and 2.16 million in the demo. And what Discovery is calling “the entire telecast”, aka both walks and the 19 minutes of blah, blah, blah in between, averaged 5.82 million viewers and 2.17 million in the demo.
As for how many people watched the entire 2.5-hour orgy of excess that was billed as Skyscraper Live With Nik Wallenda — Discovery’s not saying. In this way, Discovery Channel can pronounce the walk its “most watched telecast of 2014,” adding that “excluding last year’s Skywire Live With Nik Wallenda — which is some kind of big exclusion — it’s the network’s most-watched telecast since 2010.
About that exclusion: Back in June 2013, an average of 13 million people watched Wallenda slowly walk a wire across the Colorado River Gorge while conducting a running dialogue with God and Jesus on Discovery Channel. “Oh, I praise you, Jesus. Lord, help this cable to calm down — command it,” the 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. Back in those days, Discovery Channel did release the stats: for the whole two-hour orgy of excess: 8.5 million total viewers — jumping to that impressive 13 million during the actual walk.
That stunt also had shattered records across numerous platforms including social media, where Wallenda generated 1.3 million tweets to become the No. 1 most social show across broadcast and cable in the U.S. Today, Discovery did not report a similar stat, instead saying Nielsen’s Twitter TV figure of 22 million impressions for the Chicago walks. That means 22 million unduplicated users of Twitter saw a post/posts about the show during the telecast or three hours before or after the walk. Which, in round numbers, is one and a quarter Miley Cyrus tweets. Discovery did not say Cyrus (18.7 million followers) had tweeted about Wallenda’s death-defying Chicago skyline walk; instead it reported tweets by Pastor Joel Osteen (3 million), who prayed for Wallenda before the walk, and Chicago Bulls center/forward Pau Gasol (2.88 million), as well as NBCU talent Billy Bush (158,000 followers), Meredith Vieira (101,000 followers) and Steve Harvey (2.59 million), among others.
Discovery today also reported 2.5 million live video streams for the event, but it did not break out separately the degree of overlap.