'Saturday Night Live' 40th Anniversary Special' dominates TV ratings

'Saturday Night Live' 40th Anniversary Special' dominates TV ratings
Tom Hanks, Melissa McCarthy, Peyton Manning, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin, Miley Cyrus, Chris Rock and Alec Baldwin open the "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special" on Feb. 15. (Chris Haston / NBC)

NBC won Sunday night in the TV ratings with help from its "Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special."

According to Nielsen ratings, about 23.1 million viewers tuned in to see to watch their favorite comedians, actors and musicians reunite at Rockefeller Center's Studio 8H.

The 3 1/2-hour show was NBC's most-watched prime-time entertainment telecast, excluding post-Super Bowl programs, in over 10 years.

In the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, the special posted a rating of 7.8, making it the network's top-rated telecast in that demo since the "Will & Grace" finale in May 2006.

The special also generated lots of buzz (and laughs) on social media: Nielsen Social reported that a total of 9.1 million people in the U.S. saw the approximately 1.3 million tweets from more than 449,000 people in connection with the "SNL" special.

The show also delivered 188 million Twitter TV impressions, the highest of any series episode to date, according to Nielsen Social.

Some of the "SNL" guests -- including Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Melissa McCarthy, Neil Patrick Harris and Kim Kardashian -- were among those posting on Twitter.

Of the tweets, 180,759 (44% of all the reaction tweets) contained reactions of "love," according to data provided by Canvs, a social TV platform created by social media insights firm Mashwork.

The New York-based firm uses relevant tweets, as measured by Nielsen, to gauge what emotions or "reactions" people have about TV. It found roughly 63% of the "reaction" tweets utilized the hashtag "#SNL40."

NBC's red-carpet coverage, which aired before the special, also scored big, with 11.1 million viewers total and a rating of 3.0 in the key demo.

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