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2.7 million watch ‘SEAL Team Six,’ but ‘Real Housewives’ draw more

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Real housewives of Atlanta took out SEAL Team Six on Sunday night.

Yet NatGeo Channel claimed a major victory when Nielsen reported that an average of 2.7 million people watched the unveiling of its controversial “SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden” from 8 to 10 p.m. Sunday. That’s because ”SEAL Team Six” is the second most watched telecast in NatGeo history, behind only “Inside 9/11: Zero Hour” — which snagged an impressive 3 million viewers back in 2005, when NatGeo was available in just 55 million homes (compared to 84 million today).

After Sunday, in point of fact, NatGeo was touting the 4.7 million viewers who had checked out as little as six minutes of the two-hour program. That is commonly known as a “reach” number, and it’s relevant to advertisers because it’s assumed that if you watched six minutes, you saw an ad break — because they’re coming at you that fast these days.

The 2.7 million number, on the other hand, is people watching at any given moment during the two-hour broadcast, and is Nielsen standard for the record books.

Even so, NatGeo has cause to celebrate, given that 2.7 million viewers is a huge increase from the 660,000-ish the channel averaged in that block of time on Sundays this season to date. And, for example, NatGeo’s telecast last April of “Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron” — about the sinking of the famous luxury liner on its maiden voyage — clocked 1.8 million viewers.

And frankly, the movie was a win for NatGeo even before its debut, bajillion-upling the number of news reports in which the network was mentioned.

That said, even while the SEALs were reenacting their bumping off of bin Laden on Sunday, they were themselves being taken out by the fifth-season debut of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” over on Bravo. “Real Housewives” bagged more than 3.2 million viewers at 9, scorching that network’s ratings record for a season debut of any of its programs — ever.

In the days leading up to the premiere, some critics blasted NatGeo for running the controversial flick the weekend before Election Day, calling it a big wet kiss to President Obama.

“SEAL Team Six,” the critics noted, is backed by longtime Democratic contributor and major Obama campaign backer Harvey Weinstein, who’d bought the rights to the flick at Cannes in May and, according to press reports, then used news and docu footage to beef up Obama’s role.

NatGeo CEO David Lyle, however, insisted that it is an apolitical tribute to the security forces of the country. And NatGeo President Howard Owens told Politico they’d cut a scene that showed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney appearing to oppose the raid in which bin Laden was killed.

“We are overwhelmed that viewers across the country responded en masse to this socially relevant, factually based and entertaining film that highlighted the real inside story behind the manhunt for bin Laden and the heroes in our military and intelligence agencies,” Lyle said Monday in a statement.

Nielsen estimates that 289.4 million people are in the country’s TV homes this season. And to reiterate, “SEAL Team Six” averaged 2.7 million of them.

“It proved that no matter who Americans are planning to vote for, a good film is a good film, and we are happy to have had such success with our first original broadcast of a feature film inspired by real-life events,” Lyle concluded.

Super Bowl slot: ‘Elementary’

“Elementary,” CBS’s procedural-crime-drama take on Sherlock Holmes, has won the lottery, snagging the coveted post-Super Bowl time slot.

CBS announced Monday that it would air an episode of the freshman drama series Sunday, Feb. 3, after Super Bowl XLVII post-game coverage.

The post-Super Bowl time slot is considered the best in the TV firmament, what with the Super Bowl driving about 100 million viewers into that time slot.

An estimated 111.3 million people watched last year’s game — after which about 38 million people stuck around for NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” — which is now mopping the floor with the Fox singing competition “The X Factor,” and catapulting NBC to first place in the ratings for the season to date.

Although it’s a great number, 38 million is not nearly so good as the 53 million people who stuck around after the 1996 Super Bowl to watch an episode of NBC’s “Friends.”

“Elementary,” meanwhile, is averaging about 14 million viewers this season, which, while far short of that 53 million — or even 38 million — nonetheless makes it the No. 2 new series on TV.

In CBS’s take on the much-loved franchise, Sherlock (played by Jonny Lee Miller) has just wrapped a “fall from grace in London” with a stint in rehab, and Daddy has shipped him off to Manhattan and hired him a sobriety coach — former surgeon Dr. Watson (Lucy Liu).

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/tvblog.

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