NBC promotes Universal Orlando with a look at the making of Diagon Alley

July 1, 2014, 10:48 AM · (Update: The Hogwarts Express soft-opened this morning to all Universal Orlando guests with Park-to-Park passes.)

Last night, NBC helped promote its corporate sibling Universal Orlando's new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley with an hour-long primetime special on the making of the new land. I haven't found yet a full video of the episode online, but here's a clip from the network:

I can't recall a theme park company in recent years doing so much to promote its creative talent on a recent project. Obviously, Universal and Disney enjoy a huge promotional advantage over other theme park companies in that they are part of corporations that own major broadcast networks. And Disney has promoted its theme parks via its networks even more aggressively than NBCUniversal has. (I've long ago lost count of the number of ABC and ESPN shows that have filmed episodes at Walt Disney World or Disneyland.)

But Disney's long had an attitude toward its theme park creative talent that, as Imagineer Marty Sklar has said, "there's only one name on the door, and it's not yours." When Disney does promote its Imagineers, that tends to happen at the end of their careers, with Disney Legend status and Main Street window ceremonies. I can't recall Disney giving primetime access to an Imagineer to talk about his or her work on a current project since Walt himself was hosting the original Disneyland TV show.

According to the Nielsen overnight ratings, the special reached about 3 million viewers, for an 0.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic. That put the show in last place among programs on the big four networks last night. But still, that's three million people.

Will NBC's promotion of its creative talent expose more young viewers to themed entertainment design in any significant way? Will it lead to any change in the perception of Universal Creative relative to Walt Disney Imagineering among those who follow this industry?

Universal Creative leadership
Alan Gilmore, far left, Thierry Coup, Mark Woodbury, and Dale Mason

If you missed the special, or just want to hear more from Universal Creative's leaders, we've got highlights from their recent media day press conference on the making of Diagon Alley:

And you can take take a look at the finished product with our video tour of Diagon Alley:


Replies (17)

July 1, 2014 at 11:03 AM · All ready to watch this and the really bad storms move in... power went out multiple times and no sat signal... ugh.

I hope it is re-broadcast on the web somewhere.

July 1, 2014 at 11:25 AM · Hmmm... if you're only counting the network specials, you're right: Disney tends to focus on celebrities and characters over the talented designers and engineers. But all those Disney produced (or Disney involved) specials on the Travel Channel, from rehabs of the Disney Cruise Line to the premiere of Expedition Everest, are chock full of the people "behind the magic." Of course, none of those shows had 3MM viewers!

(the HP special is on my DVR, but haven't had a chance to watch yet... looking forward to it. Wonder how much it will go up in Live+3 ratings.)

July 1, 2014 at 12:23 PM · That .8 rating clearly illustrates how much of a niche market us theme park enthusiasts really are. When you consider shows like MasterChef and The Bachelorette, and repeats of 2 Broke Girls and Mom all trounced the Diagon Alley special, it puts us in our place. Even worse, the boy wizard special was the ONLY major broadcast network (non-CW) show to be under a 1.1 rating for the entire evening. Yikes.

I feel small. My theme park hobby, my passion did not even register a blip on the radar of the American psyche last night. How sad.

At least NBC recovered nicely in the 9:00 hour when a repeat of American Ninja Warrior pulled a 1.4 rating and restored public interest in the much maligned network for a couple of hours. (That's sarcasm, in case you missed it).


July 1, 2014 at 1:08 PM · I know Disney Legend Status, but what's a Main Street Window ceremony? I know I'm labeling myself as a non-Disney nut, but it sounds interesting.
July 1, 2014 at 1:35 PM · Hogwarts express Now Open!

I watched this and It was amazing, awesome, almost unreal...

Plus you have to remember - what % of the Theme Park demographic watched this..

Most older folks could care less about Diagon Alley and watch an old Matlock instead...

July 1, 2014 at 1:51 PM · Yes, Hogwarts' Express is now open to guests with park to park tickets. Reports of lines at the new ticket windows to up the single park tickets. James Rao, please take note.....Why did I do that, not smart, now comes James park to park rants. Well, we needed some fun on this thread....LOL
July 1, 2014 at 2:22 PM · ^No worries, Rob. By the time I get back to Orlando (next year maybe) Universal will have either come up with a round trip option for single park guests, or I'll be slopping down some Butterbeer ice cream while waiting to ride the Gringott's dark ride for the umpteenth time. And while others are scrounging around for the extra $40 needed to ride a train, the Gringott's line will be zipping by! ;)

@Brian Even the theme park demographic didn't show up to watch the special last night! 2.96 million viewers overall, with .7 being in the 18 - 49 demo (the show was adjusted down today), that total is pathetic - NOBODY watched. Not even Harry Potter fans. Maybe people just don't watch NBC? Can you blame 'em? Other than Blacklist (and American Ninja Warrior, of course), does NBC have any good shows!?! What happened to Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court, and the Cosby Show???? ;)

July 1, 2014 at 2:34 PM · I will agree with you, James -- the NBC network has gone down the toilet. But who knows... Maybe all of those would-be viewers were too busy standing along the DA fence on #potterwatch last night.
July 1, 2014 at 2:43 PM · ^Great point, Melissa, everyone who cares was already in line!!! :)
July 1, 2014 at 4:55 PM · I didn't even know it was on until I stumbled on it. Did they give any advance notice? I would have loved to watch it. Will it be re-aired?
July 1, 2014 at 5:21 PM · Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it look to me like that Universal Creative guy Dale Mason (far right) is wearing Mickey Mouse ears?

I know it's the lamp behind him, but in the still of the video, at first glance, it sure looks like he's sporting the competition's headgear.

July 1, 2014 at 9:05 PM · @james @Melissa

Side note on NBC they actually posted the highest ratings this past season for the networks

July 1, 2014 at 9:37 PM · ^Yeah, for the season ending in May 2014, NBC's 18-49 was .3 higher than CBS and Fox who tied for second (FYI - total viewers - which no one cares about - went to CBS, as usual). Interestingly though, NBC canceled ten shows this season, compared to six each for CBS and FOX (ABC had the most canceled shows with 12). NBC doesn't have many popular shows, but the few they have are very popular (personally, there is not a single NBC show I follow - though my friends tell me Blacklist is worth a look).

However, what is hurtful to us theme park fans is the fact that NBC's Harry Potter programming on Monday, June 30, 2014, was a complete swing and a miss. =(

July 1, 2014 at 9:56 PM · NBC doesn't have popular shows?!? What about their huge Thursday lineup, with Friends, Seinfeld, and Frasier?

Oh wait. I just checked the calendar. Where did the time go?

Now if only CBS could buy Cedar Fair, we'd have something special.

July 1, 2014 at 10:03 PM · NBC cancelled Community, so it is dead to me...for now. Until the Apprentice comes back (incidentally with yet another episode at Universal Orlando), I'll support the competitors at ABC (Disney).
July 2, 2014 at 3:35 AM · Interesting stats, gentlemen.

Parks and Recreation is the only NBC show that my husband and I religiously watch. Otherwise, I guess our household has fallen victim to the cable giants -- AMC, HBO, ESPN, and HGTV get all of the love in our house these days.

I will add, though, that I tuned into The Today Show and Jimmy Fallon recently for all of the Diagon Alley hype, so I'll give NBC its props for that. Sometimes, marketing works. :)

July 2, 2014 at 1:19 PM · For those of us in the UK, here's a link so we don't miss out!


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