10.7 million watched the main event broadcast from 9:10-10:20 PM, culminating with 13 million people tuning in during the walk itself from 9:38-10:01 PM. An average of 8.5 million people were watching the entirety of the special, including the pre-show.
The program was also something of a proxy war between ABC News and NBC News. ABC News produced Wallenda’s last stunt, when he walked across Niagara Falls, with “Good Morning America’”s Josh Elliott and ESPN “SportsCenter’”s Hannah Storm hosting. For the Grand Canyon stunt, NBC News produced the special for Discovery, with “Today’”s Willie Geist and Natalie Morales hosting.
The numbers for Discovery were on par with Wallenda’s last wire walk.
The daredevil’s last TV special, which aired on a Friday night last June on ABC, averaged 10.1 million viewers, peaking at 13.1 million viewers during its final half-hour.
The last live daredevil stunt to air on Discovery Channel was Felix Baumgartner‘s “space jump,” which drew 4.2 million people to the cable channel on a Sunday afternoon last October. In the case of Baumgartner, more than eight million people watched on YouTube.
The ratings certainly make Discovery Channel (and NBC News) very happy. It also bodes well for Wallenda, who will likely command top dollar for his big walk next year. He says his plan is to walk across two New York City skyscrapers, on the 40th anniversary of the legendary “Man on Wire.” walk.