The Victoria's Secret fashion show broadcast television debut attracted about 12.4 million viewers to watch some of the world's most celebrated and scantily clad supermodels on the runway, according to preliminary estimates released on Friday.
A spokesman for ABC said the results for the show, which was aired on Thursday evening, reflected an estimated 16% increase in viewership for that time slot this season.
The viewer estimates were compiled by Nielsen.
The annual fashion show, now in its sixth consecutive year, was taped on Tuesday in New York City's Bryant Park, where an estimated 1,100 guests ogled celebrity supermodels like German-born Heidi Klum, Brazilian Gisele Bundchen, and America's favorite supermodel, the Juno-esque Tyra Banks.
The show aired at 9 p.m. EST on Thursday on the television network ABC, which is owned by The Walt Disney Co.
ABC spokesman Jeff Lindsey said the audience appeared to build substantially during the show from about 11.6 million in the first half hour to 13.2 million in the second half hour, despite stiff competition from other networks.
More than 20 models, wearing everything from simple underwear to sequined corsets, thongs and six-foot wings, drew hoots and hollers from the audience as they showed off the retailer's latest and greatest lingerie fashions.
The elaborate show featured acrobatic angels hanging from cables, as well as Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and rhythm-and-blues diva Mary J. Blige.
The audience was packed with a slew of celebrities, including Sigourney Weaver, Macaulay Culkin, Ivana Trump, Regis and Joy Philbin, Alan Cumming, Stephen Baldwin, Tara Reid and Mark Wahlberg.
After Bocelli's performance, the first model walked the catwalk in a white suede halter bra and white leather panties.
Victoria's Secret marketing chief Ed Razek told Reuters in a recent interview the company gave ABC two days to review all of the footage from the show and put together a production the network deemed appropriate.
Editors used strategic camera angles to avoid the "more exposed" areas of the models' bodies. In one case, censors used strategically placed "smudges" to cover a model wearing a sheer bra.
The first 30 "outfits" veered much closer to the edge than the final 30, with many of the models wearing rhinestone- and sequin-encrusted corsets, leather boypants (like tight short boxers), red patent leather camisoles and red leather panties.
Victoria's Secret, based in Columbus, Ohio, is owned by Intimate Brands, Inc., in which The Limited Inc., owns an 84% stake.
The 2001 show was just as fantastic and eye-popping as previous shows, but it was the first time that the show has featured on prime-time televison.
Industry watchers have said the airing of the show reflected the major networks' willingness to break new ground in catering to advertisers.
"Usually the networks were above anything like this," said Jack Trout of the marketing consultancy Trout & Partners. "It's a sign of the times that these guys are looking for some extra dough."