Auds stay away from Sunday's opener

Ian McShane-fronted drama “Kings,” which at one point appeared to be NBC’s big midseason hope, was dethroned in the ratings Sunday night.

It was the second NBC newbie to open meekly during the week, with the Nielsen guillotine also slicing Wednesday’s reality skein “The Chopping Block.” Next up for the Peacock are Amy Poehler laffer “Parks and Recreation” and John Wells copshow “Southland,” both of which bow April 9.

Looking at Sunday’s numbers, Nielsen estimates that “Kings” averaged a 1.6 rating/4 share in adults 18-49 and 6 million viewers overall from 8 to 10 p.m., maintaining its demo audience from start to finish while shedding older viewers as the night went on. One week earlier in the time period, a “Saturday Night Live” clip show and the first half of “Celebrity Apprentice” earned a much stronger 2.5/7 in the demo and more than 7 million viewers overall.

Despite mostly positive reviews, the modern-day telling of the biblical King David tale figured to be a tough sell, but the Peacock had to be hoping for stronger opening-night sampling.

Net appeared to have lost some confidence in the show’s ability to be an immediate ratings draw, moving it away from its previously scheduled Thursday 10 p.m. slot (long held by “ER”) to the low-key — and less pressurized — Sunday 8 p.m. slot.

The 8 o’clock hour is tough for new shows, but it’s even more difficult at the start of daylight-saving time, when people generally start watching television later in the evening. In addition “Kings” didn’t have much of a lead-in from “Dateline” (prelim 1.1/4 in 18-49, 4.3 million).

The soft “Kings” bow hurt NBC’s “The Celebrity Apprentice” (prelim 2.7/7 in 18-49, 6.7 million), whose hourlong average at 10 p.m. was down about 15% from the previous week’s two-hour seg. Beginning this week, “Kings” will air from 8 to 9 p.m., followed by “Apprentice” from 9 to 11.

Elsewhere Sunday, demo leader ABC was up week to week with its regular lineup, as “Desperate Housewives” (prelim 5.0/12 in 18-49, 14.4 million) was the night’s top show and “Brothers and Sisters” (prelim 3.7/9, 10.6 million) led its hour.

At CBS, which prevailed on the night in total viewers, “The Unit” (prelim 2.7/7 in 18-49, 10.9 million) matched or set season highs in several categories.

In the hour prior to primetime, CBS Sports averaged a 4.8 household rating/10 share in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights for its exclusive unveiling of the 65-team field vying for college basketball’s national championship. The “Championship Selection Show” was up 9% from last year for the program’s top rating since 2005.

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