Discovery Channel says its controversial special Eaten Alive coughed up 4.1 million total viewers Sunday night, following a special 15-minute episode of Naked And Afraid starring Seth Rogen and James Franco that delivered 2.3 million total viewers from 8:45-9 PM ET.
Eaten Alive becomes the network’s highest-rated nature telecast since Life in 2010 and its best-rated telecast of 2014 among men 18-34 — even though professed anaconda-loving Paul Rosolie did not get eaten by one of the giant snakes. He bailed when his arm began to hurt too much from the crushing the snake was giving him, in order to get him down her gullet.
Not surprisingly, the much-blasted special made Discovery the No. 2 most social network in primetime across broadcast and cable on Sunday and No. 1 across cable. Eaten Alive was tops in primetime cable and broadcast, with Naked And Afraid ranking as the fifth-most-social program on Sunday (per Nielsen SocialGuide, excluding sports).
The special was a talker on TV news this morning. “Some people turned on the TV last night because they thought a snake was going to eat a dude — swallow him whole! And these same people are very, very upset that the snake did not swallow the guy whole. What is wrong with these people?!” CNN’s John Berman asked Michaela Pereira rhetorically on the network’s At This Hour. He wondered if it was a sign of the coming apocalypse — only he appeared to be kidding, unlike when CNN’s Don Lemon wondered if the vanishing of a Malaysian airplane was the result of some supernatural power.
“Dare I say it was a win for him that he didn’t get eaten by a snake?” Pereira said.
“I suppose we’ll have to wait for the overnights to see if it was a win,” Berman responded, before Discovery issued the numbers — which seem to make a case for more “nature” specials like Eaten Alive. Consider that about a year ago Discovery tried, and failed, to pop a number with a nature documentary that featured penguins and Emmy-nominated narration by Jane Lynch, who commented, “Seriously, is there anything cuter than a penguin?” And yet, despite the very popular Lynch — and penguins, for crying out loud — only 852,000 people (312,000 in the demo) watched the premiere of that BBC docu Penguins: Waddle All The Way, in which anamatronic cameras disguised as life-sized penguins, chicks and even eggs offered viewers an unprecedented glimpse into the lives and challenges of three different penguin species.
That docu had promised viewers an unparalleled opportunity to waddle up close and personal with these much loved flightless birds — but no promise that some dumb professed penguin lover would attempt to be eaten by one. Hence the lousy ratings.
For comparison’s sake, Nik Wallenda’s recent Discovery Channel high-walk between Chicago skyscrapers — during which the network first unveiled plans to toss Rosolie into the open mouth of an anaconda — averaged 5.82 million viewers. Not the whole two-hour show, just the parts in which he performed the walks.