FRESH ANALYSIS OF ALL-TIME TV RECORDS RATES THEM "FAB"!
TWO "ED SULLIVAN" APPEARANCES IN TV's ALL-TIME TOP THREE!
BEATLES HOLD TOP 4 POSITIONS IN MUSIC/COMEDY/VARIETY TV
BEATLES HAD QUARTER BILLION VIEWERS FOR JUST 4 TV SHOWS
The survey takes all the biggest TV ratings hits of the past 40 years - from the Beatles' record-breaking appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 to the series finales of "M*A*S*H" and "Seinfeld" - mini-series blockbusters such as "Roots" and "The Thorn Birds" - and all 38 Super Bowls. Then it measures all the shows that generated mega-ratings in the tens of millions by the only method that allows a fair comparison of estimated viewing figures from four different decades.
It measures THE PERCENTAGE OF THE CERTIFIED POPULATION THAT TUNED IN TO SEE EACH SHOW. Because of the birth-rate explosion that has resulted in the American population growing by over 100 million in the past 40 years - such legendary ratings hits as the finale of "Cheers" and the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of "Dallas" drew from a much larger "universe" of prospective viewers than the hit shows of the 1960's.
To create a level playing field between the TV viewing figures from the different decades - all the shows have been calibrated by scientific analysis and application of the official U.S. Census Bureau population statistics for each year.
The methodology is similar to that used when comparing all-time movie box office champions ranging from 1939's "Gone With The Wind" to 1997's "Titanic" - whereby an adjustment is made for "DOLLAR inflation." In the case of the historic TV ratings - the adjustment is made for "POPULATION inflation" - i.e. population growth.
The methodology has been endorsed by three of America's leading TV historians (see footnote.) The study was commissioned by Beatles scholar Martin Lewis - who is Honorary Chairman of the Fab 40! Committee - a non-profit collective of friends, family-members and associates of the Beatles who have come together to encourage cultural celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Beatles invasion of America (including events at Lincoln Center, The American Film Institute, The Museum Of TV & Radio and The Smithsonian.)
All four of the Beatles' legendary appearances on CBS' "Ed Sullivan Show" drew monster TV ratings. Their first three shows (on three consecutive Sundays in February 1964) scored especially high numbers - with the first program attracting a record-breaking 73 million viewers. However those audience numbers have been surpassed in subsequent years by shows such as the finales of "M*A*S*H" (105 million) and "Cheers" (93 million) - and the average Super Bowl (80-90 million.)
But this new survey that levels the playing field - gives the Beatles the last laugh.
Because the PERCENTAGES of the U.S. population that watched the Beatles on Ed Sullivan were so vast (their first two appearances each attracted approximately FORTY PER CENT OF THE NATION) - they are easily the All-Time TV ratings champions.
Broadcasts of extended sports coverage (exceeding 3 hours) such as the Super Bowl and Olympics are invariably popular - 42 of the highest-ranked 75 broadcasts (by percentage of population) are sports events. These sports events distort the chart for most regular TV programs - though three of the Beatles' four shows still trump over most sports shows - and the 4th Beatles show is also a main contender.
To allow a clearer picture - the new survey ranking TV shows by percentage of population - has calculated THREE charts. The All-Time Top 75 of All TV Shows. The All-Time Top 30 of All TV Shows - excluding sports events. And The All-Time Top 45 of Sports Events on TV.
THE ALL-TIME TOP 75 OF ALL TV SHOWS (including sports events)
The Beatles star in TWO OF THE TOP THREE TV SHOWS OF ALL-TIME. They have a third show in the Top 20 (at #16.) And a fourth show in the Top 75 (at #59.)
THE ALL-TIME TOP 30 OF ALL TV SHOWS (excluding sports)
When statistics for 42 televised sports events with extended coverage (minimum 3 hours in duration) such as the Super Bowl, World Series and Olympics are excluded from the chart - the Beatles star in THREE OF THE TOP SIX SHOWS OF ALL TIME. And star in a fourth show at #23.
THE ALL-TIME TOP MUSIC, COMEDY & VARIETY SERIES AND SPECIALS
In the Emmy category of music, comedy & variety - for both series and specials - the four Beatles-Ed Sullivan shows are the TOP FOUR SHOWS OF ALL TIME!
BEATLES SHOOT "J.R." AND NEARLY SMASH "M*A*S*H"!
The first Beatles-Sullivan show was watched by a staggering 40.5% of the nation. The second show attracted 39.2% of the US. Those two broadcasts top 1982's "Super Bowl XVI" (38.13%) and the legendary 1980 "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of "Dallas" (37.78%)
The only TV broadcast that has been viewed by a higher percentage of the U.S. population than the first two Beatles-Sullivan shows was the 1983 finale of "M*A*S*H" - which attracted 46.9%. However - unlike the two Sullivan shows which were regular-duration one-hour shows in a regularly-scheduled timeslot - the "M*A*S*H" finale was a special national TV event - a 150-minute TV movie special.
It is also noteworthy that "M*A*S*H" scored its 46.9% at a time when virtually 100% of U.S. households had a television. The Beatles' 40.5% and 39.2% were achieved from a smaller "TV universe" - a 1964 America where 8% of the households had no TV.
Among regular series TV and against every other TV event, mini-series, the TV premieres of blockbuster movies, televised sports events (including all 38 Super Bowls and the Olympics), TV specials such as the Academy Awards and Grammys - the first two Beatles-Sullivan shows are still the champions.
The study coincides with the new DVD release "The Four Complete Ed Sullivan Shows Featuring The Beatles" (Sofa Home Entertainment) which contains all four historic shows and features 20 live performances by the Beatles (including 7 #1 hits.)
AMONG ALL MUSIC, COMEDY & VARIETY SHOWS AND SPECIALS
AMONG ALL REGULAR-DURATION TV SHOWS & MINI-SERIES (2 hours & under)
AMONG ALL REGULAR EPISODES OF REGULAR TV SERIES (excluding finales)
AMONG ALL REGULAR EPISODES OF REGULAR TV SERIES (including finales)
AMONG ALL TV BROADCASTS (excluding sports events)
AMONG ALL TV BROADCASTS (including sports events)
LARGEST CUMULATIVE AUDIENCE IN 4 TV SHOWS STARRING ONE ARTIST
The Beatles appeared on a total of four separate episodes of the Ed Sullivan Show.
The first three appearances (in February 1964) attracted record audiences.
Total viewing figures for the first three shows: 205,581,000
The fourth appearance (in September 1965) attracted 47,452,000
The combined number of viewers who saw the four shows was: 253,033,000
An average of 63.3 million per show
A cumulative audience of over a quarter of a billion people
The first three of their four appearances was each repeated once in 1964.
Those three repeats attracted a total of 90,525,000
The cumulative total of viewers for the seven broadcasts is: 343,558,000
An average of 49.1 million per show
A cumulative audience of over a third of a billion people
Adjusting the total to reflect the population growth over the past 40 years - the cumulative total for the four original shows of 253,033,000 is the equivalent of a present-day cumulative total of 480,762,000 viewers.
Adjusting the total to reflect the population growth over the past 40 years - the cumulative total for all seven broadcasts of 343,558,000 is the equivalent of a present-day cumulative total of 652,760,000 viewers.
Note - The average "Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964 without the Beatles - attracted a TV audience of just 24 million viewers. A third of the audience size for the Beatles.
Show #1 - Sunday February 9th 1964
Show #2 - Sunday February 16th 1964
Show #3 - Sunday February 23rd 1964
Show #4 - Sunday September 12th 1965
Official statistics from Nielsen Media Research, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox - and the U.S. Census Bureau
WALTER J. PODRAZIK - TV historian and Beatles scholar - co-author of "Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television" (Syracuse University Press) and the three-volume Beatles discography "All Together Now" (Popular Culture Press) www.watchingtv.org
TIM BROOKS - TV historian and author: "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows: 1946-1979" (Ballantine) www.moonshopper.com/bookInfo.php/0345455428.html
DR. LAWRENCE LICHTY - Professor of radio, television and film at Northwestern University. Winner of the Broadcast Education Association's 1998 Distinguished Education Service Award. Author "Rating Analysis: Theory and Practice" http://www.northwestern.edu/univ-relations/media/news-releases/*archives97-98/*faculty/lictcron-fac.html
or any person or company associated with The Beatles.