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Wallenda’s Ratings High, But ‘Walking Dead’ Zombies Go Higher

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By Dahleen Glanton

Chicago Tribune

(MCT)

CHICAGO — At the end of the night, Nik Wallenda’s real-life death-defying walk across a tightrope in Chicago couldn’t loosen the grip of the gory, make-believe zombies that dominated Sunday’s cable TV ratings.

The Discovery Channel is calling the Wallenda show the “most watched telecast of 2014.” Discovery defined the “entire telecast” as the portion between 7:35 and 8:03 p.m. CT, which included both walks and the 19 minutes in between. That time period garnered 5.8 million viewers, Discovery said. It is not clear how many people viewed the entire 2½-hour telecast.

By comparison, AMC’s “The Walking Dead” drew 14.5 million viewers in the 8 p.m. slot, according to Nielsen.

Fewer viewers tuned in for the first half of the walk — across the Chicago River from a Marina City tower to the Leo Burnett Building — than Wallenda’s much shorter, blindfolded trek between the two Marina City towers.

According to Discovery, 6.7 million viewers watched the two-minute blindfold portion that aired between 8:01 and 8:03 p.m., compared with 5.8 million who tuned in for the seven-minute walk that aired between 7:35 and 7:42 p.m.

Discovery heavily promoted Wallenda’s walk on social media, and about 3.4 million people saw one or more of the 153,000 tweets sent out about the show Sunday, according to Nielsen.

Tweets about the show, “Skyscraper Live with Nik Wallenda,” were sent by 79,000 unique authors and were seen a total of 22.4 million times, according to Variety.com.

The most liked Facebook post on Wallenda was a video from the show of him testing the wire for the first time. That garnered 25,930 likes within 19 hours, Variety.com reported.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he watched the show on television Sunday night along with his family. He joked that he had his hands over his eyes the entire time. He said 65,000 people lined the streets of downtown Chicago to watch the event, 15,000 higher than Sunday’s estimate from police.

“I thought it would be a great event and a great way to showcase Chicago,” Emanuel said. “I learned something, and 65,000 other people learned something new yesterday. They can hold their breath for seven minutes. We all didn’t know that about ourselves.”

But in a meeting in the mayor’s office Monday, Wallenda said there never really was that much risk involved. All the publicity about him risking his life was mostly television hype. In fact, he said, there was less than a 1 percent chance that he would fall to his death.

“The chance of me falling is so slim because I train so hard. I trained in 120 mph winds. If we’d had wind gusts at 50 mph we would have canceled, though I know I could walk in 120 mph gusts,” he said.

“I have been taught my whole life to grab that wire no matter what. Never professionally have I ever slipped on a wire other than being a showman. I’m trained to hold on for 20 minutes and rescue crews will be to me in 90 seconds.”

Wallenda said he’s aware of the fans that follow him for all of his stunts, but didn’t know until Monday that some of them were holding signs identifying themselves as “Nik Chicks.”

“I have a lot of great fans that follow me everywhere I go. I was not aware of the ‘Nik Chicks,’ but I’ll take it,” he said.

Emanuel acknowledged that he was taking a calculated risk by allowing the act to take place in the city.

“But in the end, it paid off for Chicago and without a doubt, for Nik,” he said.

During Wallenda’s brief visit to the mayor’s office, Emanuel showed his gratitude by proclaiming Monday “Nik Wallenda Day in Chicago.”

©2014 Chicago Tribune

Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Wallenda’s Ratings High, But ‘Walking Dead’ Zombies Go Higher