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‘Life’ Very Sweet for Discovery

Thought ”Planet Earth“ was big? The newest nature event is even bigger. By a lot

 "Life" is very, very good for Discovery Channel: The latest blockbuster documentary from the network drew 9.4 million viewers Sunday, far more than the premiere of "Plant Earth."

According to preliminary Nielsen data, the first two hours of "Life" averaged 9.4 million viewers. That’s up from the 5.7 million who watched the first three hours of "Planet Earth" in 2007.

Discovery Monday was also touting a reach number, not typically used in daily ratings reporting. That figure was also impressive, and according to the network, represented the most-seen premiere for Discovery since "Walking with Dinosaurs" and "Raising the Mammoth" — back in the prehistoric days of 2000.

But in terms of multinight events, "Life" is on track to be a mega-hit any way you cut it. Consider: The 11 episodes of "Planet Earth" — touted by Discovery at the time as cable’s biggest event ever — averaged a 3.3 household rating and 5.1million viewers. Out of the gate, "Life" is drawing substantially more eyeballs.

We’re gonna credit, at least in part, the explosion of HDTV sales in the past three years. This is the kind of show HDTVs were designed for.

Meanwhile, is there a reason the broadcast networks haven’t decided to follow suit with their own ambitious nature event? You know, the kinds of shows National Geographic used to do so well (and still does on the NatGeo cable channels?)

UPDATE: We should have noted in our original post that "Life" aired across more than a half-dozen Discovery networks, including TLC and Animal Planet. The cume figure remains very impressive, but just a little less so than we first thought.