Last night, NBC aired its third live musical, “The Wiz Live!” An estimated 11.5 million people tuned in to watch, according to Nielsen.
That’s more than watched last year’s “Peter Pan,” but fewer than “The Sound of Music,” the first of NBC’s musical trilogy.
And unlike previous years, by and large “The Wiz” viewers weren’t hate-watching. In fact, reviews for “The Wiz” have been largely favorable. NBC was able to charge premium rates for ads and, according to Nielsen, it also got lots of Twitter love – approximately 1.6 million individual tweets were sent during the broadcast.
“These days, [it’s] a very solid prime-time showing,” said Jim Nail, an analyst with Forrester Research. “I think what they learned between ‘Sound of Music’ and ‘Peter Pan’ is they have to be very careful with the title they select.”
“For ‘Peter Pan,’ what we didn’t know is that the property had sort of overstayed its welcome,” said Craig Zadan, one of the shows’ executive producers. “We also made a choice to cast it with great actors, but not huge stars, and we discovered that doesn’t work.”
For “The Wiz,” Zadan and his producing partner Neil Meron turned to bigger names, including Queen Latifah and Mary J. Blige.
It also helped that “The Wiz” has a very loyal audience, Meron said.
“It was the first time on film there was a big budget Hollywood musical that featured an all African-American cast,” he said. “It was the first time on Broadway that a black musical won the Tony for best musical. So, it’s also significant in terms of the African-American culture.”
Didn’t see it? NBC will rebroadcast “The Wiz” on Saturday, December 19.
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