Early ratings indicate that NBC's telecast of the "The Godfather: The Complete Novel for Television" is slaughtering its competition and could reach blockbuster status by the time the four-night mini-series is over.
In New York "overnight" ratings for Saturday, the first night for the revised nine-hour "Godfather," it scored a 32.2 rating and drew a 53 per cent share of the viewing audience, a larger rating and share than the other two networks combined.
In Los Angeles, "Godfather" got a 25.3 rating and a 44 share. By comparison, opening night for the biggest TV blockbuster of all time, ABC's eight-night "Roots," earned a 38.5 rating and 52 share in New York overnights and a 42.1 rating and 63 share in Los Angeles. Subsequent episodes of "Roots" climbed to an all-time high nationally of a 51.1 rating and 71 share.
On Sunday, "Godfather" ratings improved slightly in New York and Los Angeles. On the basis of the figures, NBC Research estimates that 110 million people will see part of all "The Godfather", ABC Research estimated that 130 million viewers saw all or part of "Roots".
The crucial test for the drawing power of "The Godfather" comes tonight when its three-hour finale faces the stiff competition of ABC's top-rated Tuesday lineup, including "Happy Days," "Laverne and Shirley," "Three's Company" and "Soap".
The complete "Godfather " includes the first "Godfather film, already shown by the NBC in 1974, and "The Godfather Part II, never before shown on national television, plus an hour's worth of footage that had been cut from the atrical versions by director Francis Ford Coppla.
NBC would not reveal the terms of its deal with Coppola except to say that "millions of dollars" were involved.
One source put the figure as high as $6 million for the films and the reediting, but a spokesman for Paramount Pictures, which released the movies called that "way out of the ball park."
According to the arrangement, NBC can show both "Godfather" films once more each - not necessarily in the reedited version by Coppola, but possibly as two separate movies.
The NBC switchboard in New York logged 300 colls Saturday night, most of them complaining about the movie - but not about its violence. The callers objected to the subtitles used during the first 90 minutes of the film; many callers said the soundtrack should have been entirely in English, not partly in Italian.