An audience of 1.3 million viewers doesn’t sound like that much if you’re CBS or even if you’re TNT, but if your cable network has never cracked a million before, it’s cause for celebration. the 5-year-old National Geographic Channel is doing a little jig over the ratings for its new special “Unlocking Da Vinci’s Code: The Full Story.”

National Geographic notes that 4 million viewers tuned in for at least part of Sunday’s broadcast, including 2.8 million for the first hour.

In the adult 25-54 demographic, the special did a 1.2 rating, again not impressive on its own, but a 500 percent increase over the time period average for the year’s fourth quarter.

Almost single-handedly, the special boosted National Geographic’s household ratings for the day to 150 percent higher than the fourth quarter average.

During the two hours that the special aired, National Geographic finished sixth among all cable networks in household ratings, beating such powerhouses as TNT, Fox News Channel and TBS.

It’s unclear if the special, even after 120-minutes, was able to unlock the reasons behind the unfathomable success of Dan Brown’s novel or the inevitable success of Ron Howard’s upcoming film adaptation starring Tom Hanks.



WILD “SWEET 16′ PARTIES INSPIRE MTV SERIES

If you think a kickin’ birthday party means pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, a Carvel ice cream cake and maybe an innocent game of spin-the-bottle, you’re clearly not hip enough to be the focus of an MTV series. The cable network, which used to have some connection to music, will look at extravagant Sweet 16 birthday bashes in the new series “My Super Sweet 16.”

MTV has ordered six episodes of the series, set to premiere after “Real World: Philadelphia” at 10:30 p.m. EST Jan. 18. Produced out of MTV’s News & Docs department, the series looks at the goofiest and most expensive coming-of-age parties available, focusing on the girls who demand them and the parents who shell out the big bucks.

“These kids are determined to go all out – and to out-do all of their friends – with these ultimate birthday blowouts,” gushes Nina Diaz, vice president of MTV News & Docs. “Our viewers are in for a wild ride as we go behind the scenes for all the drama, surprises, and over-the-top fun that make up this new breed of “Sweet 16′ parties.”

Viewers will meet Ava, whose Arabian Night-themed party included a team of college water polo players carting her on a silk pillow, and Lauren and Jackie, whose Hard Rock Cafe party became such a hot scene that tickets were being sold on eBay.

“These parties have evolved into one-of-a-kind events that, in some cases, you have to see to believe,” swears Dave Sirulnick, executive vice president of MTV News & Production. “This series will give our audience a look into some of the ways kids across the country are celebrating this milestone in their lives – and whether their real-life Sweet 16 experiences can live up to their fantasies.”



ESPN ENTERS RING WITH JOHNSON PIC

The first African-American to hold the world heavyweight crown, boxer Jack Johnson will be the subject of an upcoming ESPN biopic. The Johnson movie, following in previous telefilms on the likes of Dale Earnhardt and Pete Rose, will premiere on the cable network in 2005.

Johnson held the heavyweight boxing title for six years, but may be best known for his racially motivated 1912 conviction for violating the Mann Act, a prohibition against white slavery, by transporting the woman who would become his third wife across state lines. He was sentenced to time in prison, but became a fugitive for seven years, fleeing to Cuba and then Europe before returning to serve his time.

“Jack Johnson knocked loudly on the door of a deeply segregated society,” says Mark Shapiro, ESPN executive vice president, programming and production. “With defiance, he mounted a force of courage still felt a century later. His story belongs not only to boxing, but to our national heritage.”

Johnson’s life has been the subject of a number of previous examinations including the 2004 Ken Burns documentary “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” and Martin Ritt’s “The Great White Hope,” a 1970 film in which James Earl Jones earned an Oscar nomination for playing Johnson.

Paris Qualles (“The Tuskegee Airmen”) will write the ESPN pic, which will be produced by Gerald Abrams (FX’s “44 Minutes”).



(c) 2004, Zap2it.com.

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-12-23-04 1702EST


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