"SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden" might have drawn cries of partisan bias, but despite the controversy -- or perhaps because of it -- the film about the killing of the terrorist leader yielded big numbers with its premiere on National Geographic Channel on Sunday night, handing the network its best ratings in more than a year, and the sixth-highest ratings in the network's history.
Sunday's premiere of "Seal Team Six," which was initially slated for theatrical release before getting snapped up by National Geographic Channel, posted a 1.4 rating in the 25-54 demographic -- four times the network's average in the Sunday 8 to 10 p.m. timeslot this season. In total viewers, the military dramatization drew 4.7 million people, with an average 2.7 million tuning in throughout the premiere.
"SEAL Team Six" posted the highest performance in the demographic since the August 2011 special "George W. Bush: The 9/11 Interview," which drew a 1.7 in the 25-54 demo.
"We are overwhelmed that viewers across the country responded en masse to this socially relevant, factually based and entertaining film that highlighted the real inside story behind the manhunt for bin Laden and the heroes in our military and intelligence agencies," said David Lyle, CEO National Geographic Channels. "It proved that no matter who Americans are planning to vote for, a good film is a good film, and we are happy to have had such success with our first original broadcast of a feature film inspired by real-life events."
The film's premiere date -- just two days before the election -- drew suspicion from some of the more conspiracy-minded segments of the population, who suggested that the premiere might have been planned to boost President Barack Obama's chances in the election by reminding the public of one of his major accomplishments during his first term. The criticism was fueled by the fact that unabashed Obama supporter Harvey Weinstein served as an executive producer on the film.
The network denied the allegations, with Lyle telling TheWrap last month, "The movie itself is its own defense; it's a perfectly straightforward dramatization of what happened."