Vets down on night; NBC comedies open modestly

The early trend of established series opening the season to lower ratings continued Wednesday, as ABC’s “Modern Family” and CBS’ “Criminal Minds” and “CSI” lost some of their year-ago premiere audience.

“Modern,” coming off a third straight Emmy victory, held up the best of this group and was still easily the night’s top draw in all key categories. But a year-to-year decline for one of TV’s hottest shows offers another reminder that watching a show on the night it airs simply isn’t a priority for a growing segment of people.

Fox won the night among young adults with “The X Factor,” which was down a bit from last week. NBC saw sluggish starts for comedies “Animal Practice” and “Guys With Kids,” while ABC got decent sampling for new comedy “The Neighbors.”

Looking at the Nielsen same-night nationals, Fox led among adults 18-49 with “The X Factor” (3.4 rating/10 share in adults 18-49, 9.63 million viewers overall), down a couple of ticks from last week and off 23% from last year’s series premiere, which aired on the season’s opening Wednesday. It held at least a share of the 18-49 timeslot lead in three of its four half-hours.

Elsewhere, ABC opened with an hourlong “The Middle” (2.9/9, 9.16m), which was competitive with the reality shows on Fox and CBS in the 18-49 demo and down 6% from its premiere of last year. It was followed by “Modern Family” (5.5/15, 14.44m), which was off 10% from last year’s hourlong premiere but remained Wednesday’s No. 1 show in all key categories.

Despite the declines vs. their year-ago preems, “Middle” and “Modern” both logged their best scores since January.

The Alphabet followed “Modern Family” with the premiere of “The Neighbors” (3.2/8, 9.22m) and a recap of drama series “Revenge” (1.5/4, 5.20m), which shifts to Sunday for its second season. “Neighbors” finished second to “X Factor” in 18-49 for the 9:30 p.m. half-hour and improved slightly on last year’s performance in the timeslot for “Happy Endings”; it will regularly occupy the half-hour between “The Middle” and “Modern Family.”

At CBS, the durable “Survivor” (3.1/9, 10.31m) was neck-and-neck with “X Factor” for the 18-49 lead at 8 o’clock and won outright in 25-54 (4.1/11) and total viewers — off just a tick both week-to-week and year-to-year. The net then saw its veteran dramas “Criminal Minds” (3.1/8, 11.73m) and “CSI” (2.5/7, 10.76m) open more than 20% lower than last year.

CBS easily won the night in total viewers.

NBC opened with the regular-slot premieres of “Animal Practice” (1.4/4 in 18-49, 5.19m) and “Guys With Kids” (1.6/5, 4.84m), both of which had aired an episode a few weeks ago following the net’s coverage of the Olympics. “Animal” was well off the pace of last year’s premiere of “Up All Night” (2.4/7 in 18-49), but “Guys with Kids” at least earns points for building a bit on its lead-in and improving over last year’s “Free Agents” (1.3/4), though that was a pretty low bar to climb over.

The Peacock closed with a two-hour premiere of “Law & Order: SVU” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 7.19m), which was down 12% from its hourlong opener of last year but delivered its best score in any timeslot since last November. In the 9-11 p.m. window, this also represents NBC’s top in-season 18-49 score since April 2011.

ABC and NBC will premiere 10 p.m. dramas “Nashville” and “Chicago Fire,” respectively, in two weeks. The nets didn’t want to premiere them this week only to preempt them next week when a presidential debate is scheduled; “SVU” will air regularly at 9.

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