15 million watch Granada's Michael documentary

LONDON: The man the pop world now loves to laugh at can still draw viewers like nobody in the business. British broadcaster Granada said its Living with Michael Jackson documentary netted an average of 14 million viewers on Monday, around double the usual UK viewer figures for entertainment programmes.

The 90-minute documentary, consisting of exclusive interviews conducted by British journalist Martin Bashir while he spent eight months with the reclusive star, peaked at 15 million viewers, giving it 54 per cent of the TV audience, Reuters quoted a company spokesman as saying today.

This probably gives the documentary a shot at the top spot in the ratings charts, usually dominated by soap operas like Granada's Coronation Street and EastEnders, made by the BBC.

In the latest data compiled by Broadcaster magazine, Coronation Street topped the index for the week ending 12 January with 14.8 million viewers, the Reuters report says.

Granada has already sold the rights of the Jackson documentary to US network ABC, which won a bidding war with NBC after forking out a reported $ 4 million to $ 5 million and has scheduled it for prime time on 7 February. ABC will telecast the documentary as a two-hour edition of its news magazine "20/20."


The Jackson documentary includes footage of the singer with his children and behind-the-scenes glimpses of life at Jackson's Neverland Ranch in California.

British journalist Martin Bashir spent eight months with Jackson and was with him when Jackson horrified onlookers by dangling his baby from a hotel balcony in Berlin, ABC has said.

Granada is in negotiations with a number of TV companies in other countries, and had already sold the Australian rights to Channel 7.

Jackson may no longer be the king of pop, but he has a proven track record as a television draw.

Some 25.7 million viewers tuned into "Michael Jackson: 30th Anniversary Special" on CBS in November 2001; viewership increased every half-hour for the program, culled from tapes of a Madison Square Garden tribute concert appearance, the Associated Press has reported.

Meanwhile, NBC has lined up its own Jackson special for "Dateline NBC" titled "Michael Jackson Unmasked," which is scheduled to air on 17 February. And for those who may be thinking that NBC is doing a copycat routine its not the case. NBC had announced it's Jackson special before ABC bagged its prize.

Bashir interviewed Princess Diana for the BBC in 1995 which may explain how he managed to get the reclusive pop star to open up to him.

An ABC News spokesman has been quoted by AP as saying the interview includes Jackson responding to questions about his plastic surgeries and past allegations of child molestation.

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