Doldrums Hit Many of TV's Holiday Specials

'Elf on the Shelf' Brings in Half of Last Year's Audience

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It's not a very merry TV Christmas so far for Shrek, the Grinch or that Elf on the Shelf.

Kermit and Lady Gaga on their latest Thanksgiving special
Kermit and Lady Gaga on their latest Thanksgiving special Credit: ABC

Many of the holiday movies and specials that ran in prime-time over Thanksgiving week saw declines from their airings in 2012, including with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Shrek the Halls" on ABC, "Elf on the Shelf" and "Hoops and Yoyo Ruin Christmas" on CBS, and "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" on The CW.

In total viewers, "Shrek" plunged 37% to 5.3 million this year from 8.4 million in 2012, "Grinch" declined 32% to 5.7 million, and both "Elf on the Shelf" and "Hoops and Yoyo" halved their audiences, with just 2.8 million and 2.1 million viewers tuning in, respectively.

Lady Gaga's Muppet Thanksgiving-night special on ABC also underperformed, attracting just 3.6 million total viewers. Gaga's 2011 Thanksgiving-eve special, which discussed the pop star's personal life and inspiration, brought in 5.4 million viewers.

Some specials, like "Shrek the Halls" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," moved to a Friday night this year from a Tuesday last year. And with Thanksgiving falling a week later in 2013 than in 2012, some of the specials were pushed back a week as well.

There have been some winners as well, with CBS's broadcast of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" attracting a hefty 11.4 million viewers. Even though it was up against NBC's "The Voice" and ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," it was still the highest-rated program in the 18-to-49 demo. CBS's airing of "Rudolph" on Dec. 4, 2012, averaged 10.1 million viewers by comparison.

CBS's live Garth Brooks special won Friday night, attracting 8.7 million total viewers.

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