Nik Wallenda's June 15 international tightrope walk between Niagara Falls, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Ont. proved to be a ratings boom for WKBW-TV locally and nationally helped ABC-TV win that night's ratings sweep.
According to television industry sources, WKBW's rating peaked at 48.5 or a 67 share at 10:30 p.m., just as Wallenda was midway through his highly touted and publicized walk. That means that 67 percent of all the TV sets in the immediate Buffalo Niagara region were turned to WKBW during that half-hour segment. At 10 p.m., Channel 7 had a 38 rating and 54 share.
Nationally, the three-hour show that focused on Wallenda and his 1,800-foot walk directly over the Horseshoe Falls drew a 6.2 rating and 13.1 million U.S. viewers. Ratings numbers for Canada and other countries were not immediately available.
Sources said the Nielsen ratings numbers were the highest for a non-sporting, summertime live TV event in six years. During peak fall and winter TV viewing months a 6.2 rating is about average of a mid-range popular show.
"It was compelling TV," said Tim Clark, Buffalo Niagara Film Commission executive director. "You couldn't ask for better coverage. I really think Nik Wallenda did this area a big favor."
The walk was the first time in 116 years that someone went between the two Niagara Falls' on a tightrope and the first time ever a daredevil walked directly over the falls.
An estimated 150,000 watched the walk from the U.S. and Canadian shorelines.
On both the U.S. and Canadian sides of the Rainbow Bridge, the Wallenda walk attracted a large number of media. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation issued more than 320 media passes while in Canada, the Niagara Parks Commission credentialed more than 80 media outlets from the U.S., Canada, China, Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries, said Janice Thomson, commission chairperson.
"It captured the imagination of millions and allowed Niagara Parks to showcase its beauty and put our national treasure - The Falls - on display for the entire world to see," Thomson said.