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Killing Lincoln did all kinds of wonders for the National Geographic Channel when it hit the network last winter, pulling in just under 3.4 million total viewers, numbers which helped prove the cable network could be a ratings contender. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, it seems like Nat Geo had high expectations for that drama even before it aired, and went ahead and signed on to recreate the two mens’ other title Killing Kennedy, as well. It took some time for the Kennedy project to come together, but it seems Nat Geo’s theory worked out well. Killing Kennedy aired last night, pulling in just under 3.4 million total viewers, as well.
It was actually a tight race between both National Geographic original TV movies, and Killing Kennedy ended up with the better numbers. According to THR, the debut of Killing Kennedy brought in 3,354,000 total viewers, while the debut of Killing Lincoln last winter only brought in 3,351,000. Those numbers are extremely close, which is actually a little surprising, since Killing Lincoln helped to raise the profile of the second movie considerably.
Honestly, I kind of expected Killing Kennedy to blow the Lincoln-based movie out of the water. No offense to Billy Campbell’s Mr. Lincoln, but the Kennedy movie features a spot-on Rob Lowe in the lead role. More on that, below.
Plus, the flick aired right around the time interest in President Kennedy should be at a high, thanks to the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination happening at the end of the month. Still, it’s not as if Nat Geo has been the only network to capitalize on the historical event. Other channels have their own specials planned, with TLC putting together the emotional Letters to Jackie and PBS putting together the lengthy JFK, among others. Even home entertainment companies have not shied away from releases, with Thirteen Days hitting Blu-ray this week, alongside the JFK 50 Year Commemorative Ultimate Collector’s Edition.
With all of the Kennedy noise out on the airwaves right now, people could be picking and choosing one or two Kennedy-based programs rather than tuning in all willy nilly. Additionally, Killing Kennedy aired on Sunday night, a time frequently devoted to CBS programming, cartoons on Fox, The Walking Dead, and lots and lots of football. With all of that in mind, 3.4 million total viewers is still a solid number for a network that only recently got into original programming with the flick Seal Team Six. The National Geographic Channel shows no sign of stopping, either. The network also has plans in the works to release Killing Jesus. Given the anniversary nature of this week's release, I’m guessing you’ll be able to catch that flick around Easter time at some point.