So Much For Live Musicals, Fox's 'A Christmas Story Live' Falls Flat

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Credit: Jordin Althaus/ FOX

Fox was unable to recreate the holiday magic that live musicals have bestowed on broadcasters in recent years with its retelling of "A Christmas Story."

Sunday night's live broadcast was watched by 4.5 million viewers and pulled a 1.5 rating in the 18-to-49 demographic coveted by advertisers. That's nearly half the total audience who watched "Hairspray Live!" on NBC last December. The Peacock pulled in 9 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in the demo for its version of the musical.

Live musical performances have become a staple of network TV since 2013, when NBC aired "The Sound of Music Live" starring Carrie Underwood, which scared up a mammoth 18.6 million viewers and 4.6 in the demo. As TV networks grapple with a continued decline in scripted programming, these live musicals have served as a bright spot for networks desperate to deliver mass audiences to advertisers.

They have also served as venues for ad innovation. For "A Christmas Story," Fox worked with Old Navy to air a live commercial, as well as six-second ads. Similarly, NBC has used its live musicals to feature live spots for brands like Toyota and Oreo.

NBC will not air a live musical this holiday season (after doing so for the past four years). It was originally slated to broadcast a live version of the musical "Bye, Bye Birdie" this year, but that has been pushed to 2018 due to a scheduling conflict of its star Jennifer Lopez.

Despite a star-powered cast including Jane Krakowski, Matthew Broderick and Maya Rudolph, "A Christmas Story Live's" ratings paled in comparison to Fox's first big live musical, "Grease Live!" in January 2016, which was watched by 12.2 million viewers and drew a 4.3 rating in the demo.

It's worth noting "A Christmas Story Live," based on the 1983 film, went up against NBC's "Sunday Night Football," which was watched by nearly 17 million viewers. "Hairspray" on NBC aired on a Wednesday night last year, while "Grease" on Fox aired in NFL off week between playoffs and the Super Bowl.

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