After 40 years The Beatles’ debut appearances on the Ed Sullivan show remain among the most-watched programmes in US history, a study found today.
Despite competition from Super Bowls, Olympics, Oscar ceremonies and even JR’s shooting in Dallas, the Fab Four’s first two appearances on the show in 1964 have the second and third highest percentage viewing figures ever.
Only the finale of M*A*S*H topped their celebrated live US television debut.
According to the study, which drew on data from Nielsen Media statistics and the US Census Bureau, around 40% of the American people – around 70 million - watched the Beatles take America by storm.
The figure was surpassed in February 1983 when nearly 106 million – 46.95% - tuned in for the finale of M*A*S*H.
TV statistics expert Walter Podrazik said the study showed “how totally The Beatles captured the attention of the public”.
The study emerged ahead of next Monday’s 40th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on Ed Sullivan.
They performed the classics All My Loving, Till There Was You, She Loves You, I Saw Her Standing There and I Want To Hold Your Hand.
The band was proud of the fact that the crime rate in American cities dropped dramatically during the broadcast, as even the criminals tuned in.
The appearance was seen as the moment that Beatlemania arrived in the United States, leading to their celebrated performance at New York’s Shea Stadium, and ultimately, John Lennon’s assassination by Mark Chapman in December 1980.
The study found the top 10 most watched American broadcasts of all time, measured by percentage of population, were:
:: February 28, 1983: M*A*S*H 150-minute finale movie, with 105,970,000 viewers – 46.95% of the population.
:: February 9, 1964: Ed Sullivan, The Beatles’ first appearance, with 73,000,000 viewers – 40.56% of the population.
:: February 16, 1964: Ed Sullivan, The Beatles’ second appearance, with 70,701,000 viewers – 39.29% of the population.
:: January 24, 1982: Super Bowl XVI, with 85,243,000 viewers – 38.13% of the population.
:: November 21, 1980: Dallas (Who Shot JR?), with 83,064,000 viewers – 37.78% of the population.
:: May 20, 1993: Cheers 100-minute finale special, with 93,050,000 viewers - 37.45% of the population.
:: January 25, 1987: Super Bowl XXI, with 87,185,000 viewers – 37.24% of the population.
:: January 28, 1996: Super Bowl XXX, with 94,100,000 viewers – 36.72%of the population.
:: January 30, 1983: Super Bowl XVII, with 80,960,000 viewers – 35.87% of the population.
:: January 26, 1986: Super Bowl XX, with 82,980,000 viewers – 35.78% of the population.