Particularly notable of the viewership for Friday night's 8-to-9:30-p.m. premiere (also the most-watched program ever among kids 6-11 with 6.1 million) was the network's ability to pull a broadcast-worthy number with basic-cable coverage.
So those youngsters without cable in their parents' homes flocked to one of numerous "HSM2" viewing parties held at families' homes, as well as unofficial viewings hosted by local YMCAs and other community centers, all resulting in a cultural event even Disney couldn't have prepared for from a marketing standpoint.
Gary Marsh, Disney Channel Worldwide entertainment president, told Reuters today, "Breaking the viewership record is terrific, but records come and go, and what's really important is the impact the 'High School Musical' movies have had on kids all over America and all over the world."
It's another major win for the Disney Channel, which is in the middle of the second season of its highly successful "Hannah Montana" series, itself a monstrously popular hybrid of music, TV and concerts. Like "Montana," "High School Musical" has spawned a mini-franchise via two top-selling soundtracks, a best-selling DVD, a high-grossing concert tour, and -- because it's Disney -- an ice show still forthcoming. A third "High School Musical" has been fast-tracked, with the possibility of a big-screen adaptation as well.
Only they'd better hurry -- stars Ashley Tisdale (tart-mouthed queen bee Sharpay) and Zac Efron (teen heartthrob Troy) are well into their early 20s, fielding other movie offers to take their suddenly hot careers to the next level. Disney alums like Hilary Duff ("Lizzie Maguire") and Lindsay Lohan ("Freaky Friday") both split from the House of Mouse by the time they blew out the candles on their 18th birthday cakes, so Disney must at least be thankful that Miley Cyrus of "Hannah Montana" is still all of 14.