In another startling ratings score, The Discovery Channel racked up an 8 Nielsen rating for its three-hour special Walking With Dinosaurs Sunday night, besting some of the broadcast networks by some measures.
The first of the double run was the most watched nonsporting event on cable so far this season and even beat Discovery's already surprising March 12 telecast of Raising the Mammoth, in which viewers sat through three hours of frozen archaeology without ever actually seeing the mammoth being dug out of the Siberian Ice. Walking With Dinosaurs, a co-production with the BBC, used animation to depict how recent scientific research concludes the dinosaurs lived.
With 6.2 million households tuning in, Discovery beat The WB for the night and came up just short of NBC's 7 million homes generated by theatrical movie The Chamber. In adults 18-49, Discovery's 7.8 million Nielsen-people score beat NBC, WB and CBS' Touched by an Angel and made-for-TV movie Picnic. It was the highest-rated cable program of the week.
"Obviously, we're happy to be at the top of cable rankings," said Dan Fischer, Discovery Networks executive vice president. "But, with Mammoth and this one, we're showing we can compete with the broadcast networks."
Of course, Discovery didn't triumph in all categories, even on cable. The Nielsen household rating for MTV's original movie Jailbait came to 3.5 Sunday night, less than half Dinosaur's. But in the 12-34 demo, the youngsters gave MTV a 4.4, while Discovery got a 3.5.