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5 Holiday TV Specials We Might Increasingly Tune Out

Stocks in this article: CBS CMCSA NLSN TWX

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Debut: 1964
Current network: CBS (CBS)

Air dates:
2007: Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. Averaged 14.6 million viewers.
2008: Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. Averaged 11.8 million.
2009: Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. Averaged 10.6 million.
2010: Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. Averaged 12.2 million.
2011: Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. Averaged 12.6 million.
2012: Dec. 4 at 8 p.m., Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. Averaged 10.1 million/6.81 million.

Rudolph and that blinking nose of his are nothing if not moneymakers. The neon-nosed reindeer made his debut in 1939 in a booklet handed out by the Montgomery Ward department store. A decade later, Gene Autry turned a song about the maligned misfit into a No. 1 single.

By the time NBC got around to commissioning Rankin/Bass to make a stop-motion animated special about Rudolph in 1964, it was clear he had some marketing potential. NBC's parent company, GE, included elves from the special in ads for its appliances during the special's first airing. Burl Ives, who voiced the show's snowman narrator, first sang Holly Jolly Christmas for the special and turned it into a hit single a year later.

Rudolph's nose is still a a bright spot for CBS, which took over the rights to the special in 1998 and has pulled in more than 10 million viewers with it for the past six years. This year, it finished second only to NBC's The Voice in its time slot and drew more viewers than The Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, which CBS aired an hour later.

Last Friday, Rudolph finished second to ABC's Last Man Standing (6.98 million), but had a bigger audience among adults in the 18-49 demographic. Not bad for the longest-running Christmas special on television and -- with all apologies to Wes Anderson's The Fantastic Mr. Fox -- a form of animation that went down in history long ago.

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