‘Terminator’ crushes competition

Golden Globes special attracts few

Fox’s Sunday debut of “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” scored the best opening-night demo ratings of any new show in three years, while NBC’s not-so-lustrous Golden Globes special barely registered with auds.

Boosted by strong marketing and a big NFL playoffs lead-in, the Warner Bros. TV-produced “Terminator” notched an eye-popping 7.6 rating/18 share among adults 18-49 and delivered some 18.3 million viewers with its one-hour bow Sunday at 8, according to prelim Nielsen national data. Socko perf demonstrated the value of scripted series at a time when network execs are trying to spin their ability to survive sans scribes and tubthumping strong ratings for reality shows.

By contrast, the WGA- and SAG-boycotted Golden Globes announcement special on NBC settled for an abysmal 1.7/4 in the demo and 5.8 million viewers. That’s even fewer viewers than tuned in to last week’s starless “People’s Choice Awards” on CBS, though the Globes special did a hair better in the demo.

The Globes finished a distant fourth in the 9 p.m. hour, outdrawing only the CW. The one-hour special dipped at the half-hour mark, indicating auds didn’t even care to stick around to see what won best picture — or maybe realized they could find out the winners faster by tuning to E!, which aired the half-hour official Globes press conference live.

A two-hour Globes-themed “Dateline NBC” finished with an embarrassing 1.1/3 in the demo, well behind “60 Minutes” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and not much better than the CW infomercial “CW Now.”

Peacock execs anticipated the sorry numbers for the Globes, which is one reason the net refused to pay Dick Clark Prods. a license fee to maintain exclusive broadcast rights to the results. The net would’ve done better to simply air repeats of “Law & Order.”

By contrast, the David Nutter-helmed “Terminator” pilot was spectacular in every respect.

Taking full advantage of an NFL lead-in of more than 35 million viewers, skein gave Fox its best premiere numbers for a scripted show in eight years, since “Malcolm in the Middle” became an instant hit on a Sunday night in January 2000.

“Terminator” also ended the two-week reign of “American Gladiators” as the season’s biggest premiere. Fox’s scripted series outdrew “Gladiators” by 30% in the demo and by 50% in overall viewers.

Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori was tempered in his celebration, noting the show’s huge football lead-in.

“What I’m looking at with the glass half full is strong numbers, the No. 1 premiere of the season,” he said. “In terms of realistically looking forward, we’ll try to dig down as deep as possible to see what our expectations might be.”

Liguori said “Terminator” posted between a 13 and 14 share in markets where the NFL didn’t lead into the show; as a result, the exec said he’d be happy with a 10 or 11 share on Monday’s episode.

“From there we’ll see how we can grind it out week to week,” he said.

Fox put major marketing muscle behind “Terminator,” airing trailer-style promos for the show months ago. Liguori said the net’s marketing team, under new topper Joe Earley, focused on images that could reinvent the “Terminator” franchise.

“It was critical not to serve up marketing that looked like an extension of the theatrical stuff,” he said.

Net also made a strategic decision not to premiere the show in the fall — a move that seems even smarter in the wake of the WGA strike.

Warner Bros. execs also have to be upbeat about the possibility of adding yet another winner to a 2007-08 class brimming with success stories (“Big Bang Theory,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Chuck” and “Gossip Girl”).

As excited as Fox and Warner Bros. execs no doubt are over the numbers, “Terminator” still needs to prove it can survive as a series. Skein shifted into its regular slot Monday night, where it didn’t have the benefit of a big NFL lead-in.

Sci-fi auds are notoriously fickle. NBC’s “Bionic Woman” also got off to a good start in the fall, only to see its aud drop dramatically in the following weeks. And the Peacock’s “Heroes” suffered a season-two swan dive.

Working in favor of “Terminator,” however, are some of the best reviews for any new show this season and the fact that the show’s initial run will square off against a mix of repeats and reality shows.

“Terminator” will also have a much shorter first-season run because of the strike. Instead of a 13-seg frosh run, Fox has just eight episodes in the can.

If the strike ends soon, and the ratings hold up, Liguori said he wouldn’t mind having more episodes this season — but only if the show’s producers think it can be done without sacrificing quality.

“If a show is working, my priority is preserve the creative strength of the show,” Liguori said. “You don’t want to try to microwave it back into production.”

Meanwhile, ABC did nice numbers Sunday with a two-hour block of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and a firstrun “Brothers & Sisters.”

And CBS’ decision to hold back three-part mini “Comanche Moon” from a planned New Year’s week broadcast paid off. While far from a monster hit, opening night delivered a strong 15.7 million viewers and a respectable demo rating of 3.3/8.

Pic was the most-watched movie on a broadcast net in more than two years.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)