NEW YORK (AP) — NBC's new holiday tradition of presenting a live musical production seems on firmer ground after an estimated 11.5 million people watched "The Wiz," with interest rebounding from last year's "Peter Pan."
The production more than doubled NBC's typical audience for a Thursday night despite CBS airing a down-to-the-wire NFL game as competition. NBC said it had the network's highest rating among children aged 11 and under since 2004.
Two years ago, NBC surprised the television industry by reaching 18.6 million people for its production of "The Sound of Music" with Carrie Underwood. Last year's version of "Peter Pan," however, reached 9.1 million and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron said recently that they feared NBC wouldn't want to do any more musicals if ratings for "The Wiz" weren't better.
"The Wiz" featured a cast including Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, David Alan Grier, Mary J. Blige, Queen Latifah, Uzo Aduba, Common and newcomer Shanice Williams as Dorothy. It drew strong reviews, with the AP's Mark Kennedy writing that the exuberant, inventive production "breathed new life into the notion of full-scale musicals on live TV."
The musical delivered the highest-rated Thursday night for any network since ABC's premiere of "How to Get Away With Murder" last year, with the exception of sports programming.
Nielsen also said that 1.6 million individual tweets were sent out about the broadcast — far more than the previous two musicals, which both generated between 400,000 and 500,000 tweets. There was much online discussion about "The Wiz" having an all-black cast from people who may have been unaware that the 1970s-era musical and movie had a black cast, too.
TiVo said the show's top moment for people rewinding and watching again came when the Munchkins told Dorothy to "follow the yellow-brick road."
NBC has scheduled a repeat showing of "The Wiz" for Saturday, Dec. 19.