Discovery reaps high ratings from Wallenda highwire walk

The daredevil successfully completed his wire walk across the Grand Canyon on Sunday, with Discovery Channel airing the action live across the U.S. and in 178 countries, and enjoying its highest-rated live event in the process.
June 24, 2013

Nik Wallenda’s highwire walk across the Grand Canyon on Sunday was a high-flying success both for the daredevil, and for Discovery Channel, which aired the action live across the U.S. and in 178 countries.

On Monday afternoon, the network said the special, teamed with the premiere of its new series Naked and Afraid, delivered the best-rated night for Discovery Channel since July of 2010. Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda delivered 8.5 million total viewers P2+ from 8 p.m. to 10:20 p.m., and 13 million total viewers P2+ during the walk segment.

The special was a social media hit as well. According to figures from Bluefin Signals, SocialGuide and Trendrr, it was the top social show across broadcast and cable television in the U.S., generating 1.3 million tweets on Sunday.

The feat was the highest walk attempted by Wallenda to date, putting him 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River, which is a greater height than that of the Empire State Building. He conducted the walk across the Grand Canyon, a distance of approximately 1,400 feet, without the use of a harness or any restraints. The walk took place over a remote section of the Canyon operated by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation.

Breaking the ratings down over the course of the special, the pre-show from 8-9:10 p.m. averaged 3.86 HH, 2.67 P25-54 and 6.25 million total viewers P2+; while the main event, happening from 9:10-10:20 p.m., averaged 6.43 HH, 4.77 P25-54 and delivered 10.68 million total viewers P2+. The walk segment, beginning at 9:38 p.m. and successfully concluding at 10:01 p.m., averaged 7.72 HH, 5.87 P25-54 and delivered 12.98 million total viewers P2+.

Those numbers make it the highest-rated special to air on the network since Walking with Dinosaurs and Raising the Mammoth in March and April of 2000, and the highest-rated live event to date in all key demos.

The event proved to be a great lead-in for the premiere of survivalist show Naked and Afraid, which delivered 2.75 HH, 2.06 P25-54, and 4.16 million P2+. Those numbers made it the second highest-rated premiere on the network to date, after the 2012 series premiere of Amish Mafia, and coupled with the performance of the Wallenda special, the net enjoyed its fourth best primetime average to date.

“This was certainly history in the making,” said Eileen O’Neill, group president of Discovery and TLC Networks, in a statement. “Nik inspires so many people around the world to follow their dreams. We are incredibly proud to have brought this event into so many homes across the country and around the globe.”

“The Grand Canyon was a place I visited as a kid. For as long as I can remember, it has been a dream of mine to cross over such a spectacular setting,” said Wallenda, a seventh-generation member of the “Flying Wallenda” family. ‘I’m incredibly grateful to the Navajo Nation for allowing me to accomplish my dream and the Discovery Channel for trusting in my abilities.”

Skywire Live with Nik Wallenda was produced by Peacock Productions for Discovery with Gretchen Eisele, Knute Walker, Phil Alongi and Benjamin Ringe serving as executive producers. Howard Swartz was executive producer for Discovery, with other executive producers including Nik Wallenda, David Simone, Winston Simone and Shelley Ross.


About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.