The Washington Post

History channel apologizes after boasting about ‘Vikings’ ratings

A battle scene from “Vikings.” (Jonathan Hession/History)

Tuesday morning, when final stats came in on the network’s Sunday unveiling of the two programs, the basic cable network sent out an announcement that “over 18 million tuned in!” to “Vikings” — the network’s first original scripted drama series.

According to Nielsen, the unveiling of “Vikings” Sunday at 10 p.m. averaged around 6 million viewers, and topped all broadcast networks among 18-to-49 year olds who are the currency of most commercial TV.

But History coveted its broadcast competitors’ viewer tonnage — is that a Ten Commandment violation of some kind? — and instead reported the number of people who had watched as little as one minute of “Vikings” which, where we come from, is called “channel surfing.”

The Reporters Who Cover Television did not look kindly on History’s email, and issued pointed tweets smiting the network for its rannygazoo:

“Is history trying to rewrite history?” wondered Joe Flint of the Los Angeles Times.

“In other press release info from History, I’m now 9-foot-7 in total height” snarked Variety’s Jon Weisman.

“To quote Sam Cooke, History don’t know much about history — or math, apparently,” Variety’s Brian Lowry said unto Twitter.

And History repented. Big time:

“Dear reporters, a quick apology for not clarifying key information in our releases sent earlier today, which included new information we had received this morning re the cumulative viewership for each of our big premieres. We heard your Tweets and read your emails, and are humbly reissuing the releases sent earlier. Thanks for your comments and advice. Thanks for your coverage above all.”

“The Bible,” meanwhile, did in fact average 13 million viewers, which caused show creators Roma Downey and Mark Burnett to boast, “Today, more people are discussing God’s chosen people — Moses and Abraham — in one day than ever before” — and TV suits around town to fire off memos wondering why their minions hadn’t brought them pitches for big-ticket religious projects. Can an update of Downey’s longrunning CBS series “Touched by An Angel” be far behind?

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