Palm Sunday this year saw Fox go full in with the semi-live The Passion musical featuring a 20-foot glowing cross being carried through the streets of New Orleans. For that effort, and facing a full schedule from its Big 4 rivals plus The Walking Dead on cable, the two-hour Big Easy-based The Passion scored a 4.3/7 in metered markets last night — a double-digit decline from January 31’s Grease Live and a low in early numbers for network live musicals.
Fox’s second live musical event of the year so far, the tale of the last hours of Jesus also had Tyler Perry as narrator, pre-taped segments, Trisha Yearwood as the Virgin Mother, Seal as Pontius Pilate singing “We Don’t Need Another Hero” from 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Tears For Fears’ “Mad World”, Prince Royce as the future St. Peter, Chris Daughtry as Judas, and Telenovela’s Jencarlos Canela as the man himself. With all that, The Passion was down 42% from the 7.4/11 that the three-hour Grease Live received in metered market numbers for the net on another Sunday less than two months ago.
That January Sunday was also competitive on the other nets but without the ratings threat of juggernaut TWD, which was on winter break. Eventually pulling in a 4.3/13 rating among adults 18-49 and drawing 12.21 million viewers, Grease Live aired head-to-head with the Pro Bowl on ESPN. CBS did have a bit of overrun from this year’s NCAA Tournament into its Sunday 7 PM slot last night, but that was not a direct threat to The Passion. Excluding NCAA spillover, NBC’s newbie Little Big Shots was the highest-rated show of the night in MM results with a 7.6/12 rating.
Fox’s second foray into the event TV of live musicals also saw a 46% decline against the 7.9/13 MM result of NBC’s December 3, 2015 broadcast of The Wiz Live! Facing an NFL game on CBS, that nearly three-hour Thursday night show starring Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige was up 34% from the 5.9/19 that Peter Pan Live! delivered in MM ratings on December 4, 2014 – also a Thursday with NFL competition. Of course, both NBC’s third and second live musicals attempts were down from the International Space Station-ratings heights of the 10.9/18 MM results that the Carrie Underwood-led Sound Of Music Live! achieved for the Comcast-owned net on December 5, 2013 – another Thursday but with no NFL game on any of the Big 4. TSOM Live! went on to get a 4.6/13 rating among the key demo and a whopping 18.5 million viewers.
In the fast nationals, The Passion drew a 1.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers vs. Grease‘s 4.3 demo rating and 12.2 million viewers. The Passion also was well below all NBC live musicals — The Sound of Music (4.6 in 18-49, 18.6 million), Peter Pan (2.4, 9.2 million) and The Wiz (3.4, 11.5 million). The Passion‘s numbers ticked up as the night progressed — from a 1.4 in the demo at 8 PM to 1.8 at 9:30 PM. Despite the infusion of contemporary music and Perry’s following among young viewers, Fox’s religion-themed special was older-skewing compared to the other live musicals.
Fox finished Sunday tied with NBC and CBS for No.1 in adults 18-49. NBC was paced by Little Big Shots (2.6 in 18-49, 13.2 million viewers), the highest rated entertainment program of the night, down a modest -7% in the demo from its strong time slot premiere last Sunday.
The rest of NBC’s offerings last night saw The Carmichael Show (1.4/5) even with last week’s Season 2 Sunday debut while newbie Crowded (1.0/3) dipped 9% from the second TCS of last week. Compared to its March 15 9 PM preview premiere, last night’s Crowded declined 41%. At 10 PM, Hollywood Game Night (0.7/2) was down a tenth.
ABC’s night started with America’s Funniest Home Videos (1.1/4) even with its March 13 show. However, that’s where the evenness, so to speak, stopped for the Disney-owned net. Once Upon A Time (1.1/4) was down 15% among adults 18-49 for a series low in early results. Both The Family (0.7/2) and Quantico (1.0/3) went down a tenth from last week. ABC are seeing signs of hope for the Joan Allen-led drama in delayed viewing with The Family seeing 63% lifts in Live + 3 demo results. The show’s Sunday debut of March 6 got a 88% jump in Live + 7 results from a Live + Same Day rating of 0.8 to a 1.5.
That NCAA overrun pushed all of CBS’s prime in the Eastern and Central time zones back 35 minutes so early numbers are unreliable there, including for the Sunday debut of Elementary (0.8/3).