The local television ratings for Nik Wallenda’s breathtaking walk over Niagara Falls Friday night were out of sight.
ABC’s telecast carried on Channel 7 was a huge local TV hit that was comparable to how Buffalo Bills games rate during the NFL regular season.
The final two hours of the three-hour program broadcast by ABC broadcasting had a 34.1 rating on Channel 7, hitting a peak of 48.5 percent at 10:30 when Wallenda was about 10 minutes away from completing the walk.
To put that in perspective, 48.5 percent of televisions in Western New York at 10:30 were tuned into Channel 7. The rating diminished to a still extraordinary 38.5 at 10:45 when ABC had to fill time since Wallenda concluded his walk more quickly than expected.
Those are unheard of numbers for summer programming in Buffalo. Clearly, few viewers were bothered by the fact that Wallenda was tethered to a safety harness. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the highest-rated show in summer history since the start of local meters a dozen years ago, though it will take awhile to check if some Summer Olympic opening ceremonies scored higher. Remember, the Bills games that average in the low to mid 30s air in the fall and winter when weather conditions can keep more people home.
The first hour about famous megastunts in history had an impressive 13.1 local rating, which is in the upper range of how “America’s Got Talent” performs on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate.
The tremendous rating for the Wallenda Walk also provided Channel 7’s Eyewitness News with a rare nightly win at 11 p.m. The late newscast anchored by Keith Radford and Joanna Pasceri had a 20.1 rating, which is four or five times the rating the station normally gets at that hour.
Of course, the local numbers were expected to be high because of all the hype here. The final national numbers are expected to arrive on Monday.