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Killer Start Thursday for ABC’s ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

On big night for Shonda Rhimes, 'Scandal' hits series high, 'Grey's Anatomy' shines in new, earlier timeslot

UPDATE: In updated Nielsen estimates released late Friday, ABC’s dramas all pick up a tenth: “Grey’s Anatomy” (3.1/11 in 18-49, 10.14 million viewers overall), “Scandal” (3.9/11 in 18-49, 12.16 million viewers overall) and “How to Get Away With Murder” (3.9/12 in 18-49, 14.34 million viewers overall).

“Murder” is the season’s No. 1 new show in 18-49 and 25-54 (tied with CBS’ “Scorpion”). It retained 100% of its series-high “Scandal” 18-49 average while building by 18% on it in total viewers.

There were no 18-49 adjustments for the originals on NBC or Fox.

At CBS/NFL Network, the Giants-Redskins game averaged a 6.0/19 in 18-49 and 16.29 million viewers overall, winning the night. The primetime average for the networks (5.6/18 in 18-49, 15.40 million viewers overall) is better than CBS itself has done on a premiere week Thursday since 2007.


Thursday was a very big night for Shonda Rhimes and ABC, with the latest show executive produced by the “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” creator — “How to Get Away With Murder” — opening with the largest young-adult audience for any new series this fall.

ABC was strong on two-thirds of Thursday a year ago, but the addition of “Murder” helped cap a lineup — branded by the network as “TGIT” (Thank God It’s Thursday) — that dominated last night among women and will place a strong second overall to CBS/NFL Network’s “Thursday Night Football” in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers. The Alphabet dramas were the night’s top three entertainment series in the key 18-49 and 25-54 demos as well as total viewers and the net had its best Thursday to open a season in five years.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “How to Get Away With Murder” averaged a big 3.8 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 and 14 million viewers overall in the 10 o’clock hour, matching in 18-49 its strong lead-in from “Scandal” (3.8/11 in 18-49, 11.9 million viewers overall), which opened with a series high. Skewing a little older than “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder” built slightly on its lead-in in 25-54 (4.4 vs. 4.3) while adding about 2 million total viewers.

The Viola Davis-fronted “Murder” performed nearly 10% better in 18-49 than last year’s second hour of the “Grey’s Anatomy” season opener, which aired on the Thursday of premiere week, and it also exceeded the “Scandal” season premiere in Week 2 of last season (3.6).

Among all series premieres this fall, “How to Get Away With Murder” ranks best in adults 18-49 — besting the 3.3 for ABC’s “Blackish” on Wednesday and Monday’s dramas premieres of “Scorpion” on CBS and “Gotham” on Fox (both 3.2).

In adults 25-54, “Murder” is neck and neck with “Scorpion” and “Blackish” as fall’s best debut.

“Grey’s Anatomy” opened the night for ABC (3.0/10 in 18-49, 9.8 million viewers overall), shifting to the 8 o’clock hour and placing second to football. Though down in 18-49 as expected from its two-hour, 9-11 p.m. debut of last year (3.4), it outperformed its final 11 episodes from last season while also delivering the show’s largest overall audience in nearly two years (since October 2012).

The long-running medical drama should be able to provide the network with nice time-period improvement over last year. On the opening Thursday of last year, ABC did a 1.2 rating with a special repeat of the “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD” premiere. The “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” series premiere delivered a 1.7 rating two weeks later.

At CBS and NFL Network, the “Thursday Night Football” matchup between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins averaged an 11.2 overnight household rating/19 share in Nielsen’s metered markets, which should translate into more than 16 million viewers combined on CBS and NFL Network. The first “TNF” game of the season (Pittsburgh-Baltimore) did a 13.7 overnight, and last week’s blowout Tampa Bay-Atlanta contest managed an 8.5.

The 11.2 rating is a big 87% improvement over the 6.0/11 generated for San Francisco-St. Louis a year ago when it aired on the NFL Network plus over-the-air stations in the markets involved.

CBS, of course, locked up one of some of its best same-night Thursday ratings in years. On the net’s stations from 8:30 to 11 p.m., the game did a 4.5/14 in 18-49 and 12.5 million viewers overall, with these numbers expected to rise by 15% or more once the finals (which include the NFL Network) come in.

Despite increased competition, NBC’s two-hour “The Biggest Loser” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 4.5 million viewers overall) matched its week-ago score. It was followed by the final-season premiere of “Parenthood” (1.4/4 in 18-39, 4.3 million viewers overall), which was down two tenths from its year-ago opener but matched the show’s highest rating since its second episode of last fall.

At Fox, the 10th-season premiere of “Bones” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 6.2 million viewers overall) placed third among the Big Four in 18-49 for the 8 o’clock hour, coming in down about 30% from its Monday premiere of last season (2.3) when it aired in front of the “Sleepy Hollow” series premiere. Last night, a repeat of “Sleepy Hollow” capped Fox’s night (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.5 million viewers overall).

Next Thursday will be a busy one, with the series premieres of NBC comedies “Bad Judge” and “A to Z” and Fox’s “Gracepoint,” as well as the returns of CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” and “Reign.”

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