ABC walked a tightrope to ratings riches Friday night as viewership swelled in the third hour of prime time to watch a daredevil walk a tightrope over Niagara Falls.
The stunt was broadcast live starting around 10:15 p.m. (9:15c) and the daredevil was live too — as in “still alive” — after the daring deed was over.
The daredevil was Nik Wallenda, who is descended from a long line of tightrope walkers. On Friday night, his mega-stunt was the featured attraction on an evening of “Megastunt” specials on ABC — all geared to the Niagara Falls tightrope walk.
But it was the final hour that made this ratings mega-stunt worthwhile for ABC. In that hour, ABC’s audience ballooned to 12.869 million viewers, according to Nielsen overnight ratings released Saturday. In the hour just before the live stroll over the falls, 7.411 million viewers were tuned to ABC, which means the network added more than 5 million viewers in the space of a few minutes after 10 p.m. eastern time.
ABC’s ratings built throughout the night in the lead-up to the tightrope stunt. In the first hour of prime time Friday (8-9 p.m./7-8c), ABC averaged 5.707 million viewers.
ABC easily won the evening, which was characterized mostly by reruns on the other networks.