Things may have gone well for the Parkinson’s Disease sufferer who successfully underwent brain surgery on Sunday that was shown to viewers live on National Geographic Channel. Ratings wise, less so.
While the media was fascinated, or outraged at the prospect of Brain Surgery Live, showing viewers the final two hours of a much longer deep-brain stimulation procedure performed at Cleveland’s University Hospitals Case Medical Center, viewers were much less engaged.
The 9 PM ET special in which brain surgery was performed live on on a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and its resultant tremors, speech problems, and other symptoms, clocked 445K viewers. That’s a 41% decline compared to the 760K clocked previous Sunday at same time on NatGeo Channel with Billy The Kid.
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In the 25-54 demo, the live brain surgery telecast logged 160K viewers, losing 47% of Billy The Kid’s 301K the previous Sunday. The brain operation ranked 26th in overall audience among cable networks in its 9-11 PM timeslot, and 29th in 25-54.
On the bright side, #BrainSurgery Live trended in the U.S. during the procedure, ranking No. 3 on Twitter during its final hour, which is something, considering that night the show competed for people’s attention with football, The Walking Dead, MTV EMA’s etc. The brain surgery show was sampled for at least one minute by about 2.5M, which may speak to viewers’ squeamishness with the content – or possibly the program’s lack of gore.
The TV ratings are all U.S. Live + Same Day stats. Brain Surgery Live aired in 171 countries and in 45 different languages.
In this country anyway, the primetime event created some controversy. a Johns Hopkins Hospital cardiac surgeon, for instance, was quoted in the Boston Globe, scolding “It’s hard to say we are getting serious about patient safety when putting on circus acts like live brain surgery.” Plenty more where that came from. Meanwhile, others took swipes at the program’s producer, Leftfield Pictures, because it is better known for such reality series as Pawn Stars, and Monster In-Laws.
According to National Geographic, the patient, who was awake during the surgery so as to help guide placement of electrodes in his brain, is recovering well from the first brain surgery ever to be telecast live in the U.S.
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