The Matt Lauer shadow loomed large over NBC’s Christmas in Rockefeller Center special last night. Lauer, dramatically fired from Today on Wednesday morning over sexual harassment allegations, was scrubbed at the last moment from the co-hosting lineup for the annual event he had emceed with his fellow Today show co-anchors for years.
The behind-the-scenes drama had little effect on Christmas in Rockefeller Center‘s ratings as the special was even with last year’s 1.7 adults 18-49 ratings (Live+Same Day), drawing 9 million viewers at 8 PM. That almost doubled the delivery in the hour for The Blacklist this fall. And while the thematic segue from the Lauer sexual misconduct-impacted Christmas in Rockefeller Center to the special episode of Law & Order: SVU, featuring Benson (Mariska Hargitay) interviewing a rape victim, may have been awkward, the special provided a strong ratings lead-in, which boosted the veteran crime drama to season highs.
SVU (1.5 in 18-49, 7.1 million) surged 43% in total viewers and 36% in 18-49 to its biggest audience since September 2016 and its best demo number since February 8. The halo effect carried over to 10 PM where Chicago PD (1.3, 6.9 million) tied/hit season highs.
Fox’s Empire (1.6, 5.1 million) came back from a Thanksgiving break down 20% in the demo and 16% in viewers to mark new series lows. Lead-out Star (1.2) held steady.
Except for Speechless (1.1 in 18-49) which was even, the rest of ABC’s Wednesday lineup was off from their most recent originals, with American Housewife (1.0, -0.3) slipping to a season low. The Goldbergs (1.4), Modern Family (1.6) and Designated Survivor (0.7) were all off by a tenth.
On CBS, a two-hour Survivor (1.8) was followed by a Bruno Mars music special (1.1). The CW’s Riverdale (0.5) and Dynasty (0.2) were steady.
For the night, NBC edged CBS in 18-49 (7.7 million vs. 7.3 million), while CBS came out on top in the demo (1.6 vs. 1.5).