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The Sound of Music is always a holiday favorite, but it has enjoyed extra time in the limelight this year, thanks to NBC’s brand new version of the project, The Sound of Music Live!, based on the famous Broadway production. The Live! version brought in high numbers for the network, but last night ABC pulled the 1965 theatrical film out of its hat and aired the Julie Andrews version during primetime. So, how did the rerun fare compared to NBC’s big outing this year?
For once, NBC nabbed the win. The live version of the Broadway production, starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer, produced a whopping 18.5 million total viewers when it first aired on NBC on December 5. According to E!, last night’s airing of The Sound of Music, by comparison, only pulled in 6.5 million total viewers. Of course, it’s probably totally unfair to compare a brand new concept to a program that has routinely aired around the holidays for decades. However, I think it does say something about the current trends in television.
Before the era of home video, TV used to be the only way that families could come together and watch beloved films from the comfort of their own homes. That has changed over the past several decades, of course, but it’s kind of telling that audiences are now showing up in droves for programming that feels new and unexpected rather than showing up for the shows that have appeared traditionally as comforting and expected programming over the years.
It should be noted that The Sound of Music Live! was airing amidst midseason finales rather than a weekend night that is dominated by family gatherings and football, football and more football. It should also be noted that 6.5 million total viewers just before the Christmas holiday marks pretty worthwhile numbers for ABC.
Despite these notes, it’s pretty clear that the Sound of Music Live! was a programming option worth repeating for NBC. The network has already released the special onto DVD. Additionally, NBC let the world know a couple of weeks ago that it would be scheduling future live productions of popular musicals. Robert Greenblatt made the announcement, noting that Neil Meron and Craig Zadan have been signed on to adapt the production, which will air in 2014.
I certainly think there's plenty of room in the schedule for both new and old programming, and personally I'm in favor of a world where I can mix some current productions with the most beloved specials ever put together. In fact, that's the recipe that should churn out ratings for the networks for decades to come. We'll keep you posted when the various networks air their different versions of holiday programming this time next year.