News and analysis
May 26, 2015

First U.S. Red Nose Day Raises $21 Million

In its U.S. debut on May 21, the popular British fundraising telethon Red Nose Day raised just over $21 million, benefiting a dozen charities tackling childhood poverty around the globe.

The star-studded three-hour telethon on NBC featured live comedy and musical performances interspersed with video appeals to give to those in need. Donations went to the Red Nose Day Fund, a program of the nonprofit Comic Relief, which will distribute money to 12 charities, including Feeding America, the Vaccine Alliance, and the National Urban League. Proceeds from sales of red clown noses at Walgreens stores are also included in the total contributed to the fund.

But the money raised for the event trailed far behind the $122 million raised by the most recent British event, held in March. The biennial U.K. event has raised more than $1.6 billion since it began in 1988.

With changing patterns of television viewership, the telethon model may be losing steam. Just weeks before last Thursday’s event, the Muscular Dystrophy Association announced it would end its longstanding telethon and refocus its efforts on engaging with audiences on digital and mobile channels.

Red Nose Day included multiple platforms in its strategy, with several social-media campaigns leading up to the event.

According to Nielsen Twitter TV ratings, there were 149,000 tweets about the program from three hours before the broadcast to three hours after it. That puts the special as the third-most-social television program last week, following behind the final episode of the "Late Show" with David Letterman and the 2015 NBA draft lottery.

Send an e-mail to Eden Stiffman.