Rising NBC Easily Wins Premiere Week in Key Demos

CBS on top again in total viewers; each Big Four network opens a new series to good ratings

NBC Ratings Win

One week in, and the Peacock is pumped.

A vibrant “Voice” and a strong start for James Spader drama “The Blacklist” keyed NBC during premiere week, as the net prevailed in key demos to start the season for a second straight year — and this time by comfortable margins.

The net was up vs. last year on each of the season’s first four nights, and ended up with its highest adults 18-49 rating for a premiere week in five years (3.1), according to Nielsen. Overall, NBC showed gains of 7% in the demo vs. last year, while ABC was also up a bit; CBS (-8%) and Fox (-15%) were down.

NBC’s advantage over the No. 2 network (ABC) was 35%, up from 12% a year ago (when Fox was runner-up) and the largest on a percentage basis for any network since 1997.

And the Peacock’s position relative to ABC, CBS and Fox compared with two years ago is especially striking, as it ranked fourth in premiere week 2011. NBC’s Week 1 average this year is 19% higher than 2011 (3.1 vs. 2.6) while its rivals are all down by 18% or more.

Getting nice contributions from dramas “Chicago Fire” and “Law & Order: SVU,” too, as well as the usually dominant “Sunday Night Football” franchise, NBC also won premiere week in both persons 12-34 and adults 25-54.

CBS led in total viewers, and has now finished on top in the last five premiere weeks and nine out of the last 11.

All four of the major networks have opened a show to good ratings, and now it’s a matter of whether viewers will return.  NBC’s “Blacklist” and Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow” look like the real deal after holding up well in their second episodes. ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” and CBS’ “The Crazy Ones” will hope to do the same this week.

Overall, five new series ranked among premiere week’s top 20 programs, up from just two a year ago.

Across all of television, DVR playback in premiere week was up 12% in adults 18-49 vs. last year, underscoring the networks’ plea for patience when it comes to judging a show’s ratings performance before all data is in. Interestingly, the year-to-year growth in DVR usage is about double (23%) among adults 50-plus — a sign that older viewers are getting more comfortable with the technology.

It looks like more shows will gain 4 million viewers or more in 3-day DVR playback this season, as NBC’s “The Blacklist” and CBS’ “Elementary” and “The Big Bang Theory” have already done it. Last season, only “Big Bang” and ABC’s “Modern Family” added 4 million time-shifted viewers within the three-day window post-telecast.

The Big Four averaged a combined 9.8 rating in adults 18-49 and 34.1 million viewers overall during premiere week, down 3% in the demo and flat in total viewers — pretty good, especially considering that they should look better in such comparisons thanks to the increased DVR playback numbers.

Looking at the networks, NBC has to be pleased with its early-week performance, as it clocked in with 18-49 victories on both Monday and Tuesday of premiere week for the first time in 25 years.

The net won Monday by 74% in adults 18-49, the largest margin for any network in Nielsen People Meter history. “The Voice,” with the return of its original judges, was easily the night’s No. 1 series in 18-49 (5.1/13) and total viewers (14.98 million), rising by double-digits vs. both its year-ago premiere (when it bowed earlier in September) and the opening night of the television season.

“The Blacklist” had an impressive bow (3.8/10 in 18-49, 12.58m), also winning comfortably. The last regularly scheduled 10 p.m. drama to post a higher in-season 18-49 average than the premiere of “Blacklist” was ABC’s “Private Practice” in 2010.

“The Voice” also shined on Tuesday with an expanded two-hour episode (4.7/13, 14.35m), which led into series highs for “Chicago Fire” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 8.90m) as it debuted on its new night.

“Revolution” improved NBC’s Wednesday 8 p.m. timeslot as it began season two (1.8/6, 6.81m), and “Law & Order: SVU” followed by kicking off its 15th season with surprisingly strong numbers (2.7/8 in 18-49, 9.58m) — up 29% from last year and moving to the timeslot lead at 10 o’clock.

NBC has some work to do on Thursday, where “The Michael J. Fox Show” opened lower than expected (2.2/6 in 18-49, 7.50m), and “Parks and Recreation” returned sluggishly (1.3/4 in 18-49, 3.27m). By moving “Parenthood” to the night, though, the net was able to show timeslot improvement at 10 p.m. vs. last year’s “Rock Center” — and those gains will skyrocket with DVR playback.

“Sunday Night Football” was the week’s No. 1 program (7.6/20 in 18-49, 20.49 million viewers overall for New England-Atlanta), but NBC’s premiere-week Sunday was down 14% from last year — making its overall gains for the week more impressive.

Its strong start to the season comes on the heels of NBC’s second-place 18-49 finish for the 52-week 2012-13 broadcast year — the first time the net placed this high without help from the Olympics or Super Bowl in 10 years.

ABC’s slight year-over-year gains are due to a stronger Tuesday thanks to “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” (4.7/14 in 18-49, 12.12 million viewers overall), which opened with the best 18-49 premiere score for any drama on television in four years. It beat CBS’ “NCIS” in both 18-49 and 25-54.

The Alphabet followed that up with the bows of laffers “The Goldbergs” (3.1/8 in 18-49, 8.94m) and “Trophy Wife” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 6.69m), which beat their Fox competition head-to-head. Closing out the night, though, it was a slow start for lotto-winner drama “Lucky 7” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 4.43m).

Key returning shows, including “Modern Family,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Once Upon a Time” and “Revenge,” were down more than 15% from where they opened last year.

Also low were Friday’s “Last Man Standing” (1.2/5 in 18-49, 5.73m) and “The Neighbors” (1.0/4 in 18-49, 4.06m), but “Shark Tank” remains the night’s top show on any network in 18-49 (2.0/7, 6.94m).

CBS opened “The Crazy Ones” to good numbers (3.9/11 in 18-49, 15.52 million viewers overall), while new Monday comedy “Mom” (2.5/6 in 18-49, 7.99m) did well relative to its lead-in.

“Crazy,” which drew the largest overall audience of any first-year show last week, opened to the net’s best demos in the Thursday 9 p.m. timeslot in nearly four years.

Returnees looking strong included “How I Met Your Mother” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 9.40m), “NCIS” (3.6/11, 20.02m) and “Blue Bloods” (1.7/6 in 18-49, 11.70m), with the Tom Selleck drama showing year-over-year improvement and seeming to mesh well with lead-in “Hawaii Five-0” on its new night (1.6/5 in 18-49, 9.46m).

And, of course, “The Big Bang Theory” is as hot as ever, ranking as the week’s No. 1 entertainment series — and it will surpass “Sunday Night Football” for the week when full-week DVR data comes in. Its regular 8 p.m. episode did a big 5.5/18 in 18-49 and 18.99 million total viewers .A special 8:30 p.m. original episode, scheduled by the network to help provide a strong lead-in for “Crazy Ones,” did a 6.1/18 in the demo and a series-high 20.44 million total viewers.

Declining more than 15% from last year’s premiere week were “2 Broke Girls” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 8.88m), “Survivor” (2.4/8 in 18-49, 9.54m), “CSI” (2.0/6, 9.12m) and “The Amazing Race” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 8.62m).

Thursday’s “Elementary” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 10.18m) also returned lower, but added 1.2 demo ratings points (to 3.3) and 4.17 million total viewers in just three days of DVR playback.

At Fox, “Sleepy Hollow” (3,1.8 in 18-49, 8.59 million viewers overall) held up nicely in its second week opposite premieres on the competition, down 11% and finishing second to “The Voice” in 18-49 for its time period.

That was pretty much the highlight for the week, though, as “The X Factor” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 7.73m), “Glee” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 5.06m) and Sunday’s comedy block all dropped 15% or more.

On Tuesday, brutal competition contributed to week-over-week declines of about 30% for “Dads” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 3.65m) and  “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (1.8/5, 4.03m). Returnees “New Girl” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 4.04) and “Mindy Project” (1.5/4, 2.94m) were off more than 20%.

Of note on cable during the broadcast premiere week, the series finale of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” surged to stand as Sunday’s dominant entertainment series (5.3/14 in 18-49, 10.28), hitting all-time highs and drawing more viewers for its conclusion than any show in basic cable history.

And at FX, Tuesday’s “Sons of Anarchy” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 4.48m) didn’t budge week to week despite facing additional competition from drama premieres on ABC, CBS and NBC. It placed second to “Chicago Fire” for the 10 p.m. hour in 18-49 and first in key male demos.


Adults 18-49

NBC             3.1/9              (up 7% vs. last year)
ABC              2.3/7             (up 5%)
CBS              2.2/7              (down 8%)
Fox              2.2/7              (down 15%)

Total Viewers

CBS             10.38 million      (down 3%)
NBC              9.71 million      (up 19%)
ABC              7.99 million       (down 4%)
Fox               6.90 million       (down 13%)


Adults 18-49
1.  Sunday Night Football (NBC), 7.6/20
2.  The Big Bang Theory special-8:30 (CBS), 6.1/18
3.  Monday Night Football (ESPN), 5.6/15
4.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 5.5/18
5.  Breaking Bad (AMC), 5.3/14
6.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 5.1/13
7.  Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (ABC), 4.7/14
7.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 4.7/13
9.  Modern Family (ABC), 4.2/12
10.  The Crazy Ones (CBS), 3.9/11
11.  The Blacklist (NBC), 3.8/10
12.  How I Met Your Mother (CBS), 3.7/10
13.  NCIS (CBS), 3.6/11
14.  Grey’s Anatomy (ABC), 3.4/9
15.  The Goldbergs (ABC), 3.1/8
15.  Sleepy Hollow (Fox), 3.1/8
17.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 3.0/8
18.  Two and a Half Men (CBS), 2.9/8
18.  The Simpsons (Fox), 2.9/8
20.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 2.8/7
20.  2 Broke Girls (CBS), 2.8/7

Total Viewers (in millions)
1.  Sunday Night Football (NBC), 20.49
2.  The Big Bang Theory special-8:30 (CBS), 20.44
3.  NCIS (CBS), 20.02
4.  The Big Bang Theory (CBS), 18.99
5.  NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS), 16.35
6.  The Crazy Ones (CBS), 15.52
7.  The Voice-Monday (NBC), 14.98
8.  The Voice-Tuesday (NBC), 14.35
9.  Monday Night Football (ESPN), 13.92
10.  Dancing With the Stars (ABC), 13.57
11.  The Blacklist (NBC), 12.58
12.  Person of Interest (CBS), 12.44
13.  Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (ABC), 12.12
14.  Blue Bloods (CBS), 11.70
15.  Modern Family (ABC), 11.68
16.  Two and a Half Men (CBS), 11.59
17.  Castle (ABC), 11.46
18.  Criminal Minds (CBS), 11.27
19.  60 Minutes (CBS), 10.67
20.  Breaking Bad (AMC), 10.28