UPDATE: The premiere of Simon Cowell’s The X Factor drew a modest (by mega talent competition series standards) 4.2 rating/12 share in adults 18-49 and 12.1 million viewers. That fell short not only of the January season premiere of American Idol (9.7/26, 21.6 million viewers in the fast nationals) but also the April debut of NBC’s The Voice (5.1/13, 11.8 million) in the demo. It also fell well short of Cowell’s publicly stated expectations of beating Idol and attracting 20 million viewers. In the 9 PM hour, X Factor was beaten by ABC’s Modern Family in both 18-49 and total viewers and CBS’ Criminal Minds in viewers. Still, by virtue of Fox’s long history of low fall ratings, X Factor delivered Fox its first premiere week Wednesday win in 18-49 in 18 years and its highest-rated Wednesday in 13 years.
ABC (4.1/11, 11.4 million) had a great night against X Factor, with its returning series The Middle and Modern Family both growing from last fall and hitting demo series highs, and new drama Revenge launching well at 10 PM. The hourlong season premiere of The Middle (3.0/9) at 8 PM was up 11% from last September when the show’s season opener was a half-hour. At 9 PM, off its sweep at the Emmys, Modern Family (6.0/15, 14.3 million) opened its third season up 18% from the Season 2 premiere and ranked as the highest-rated program of the night in both the demo (by a wide margin) and total viewers. It also provided a strong lead-in for new soap Revenge (3.4/9, 10.1 million), which gave ABC its best debut in the Wednesday 10 PM time period in four years, outpacing last fall’s debut of The Whole Truth in the hour by 127% and topping the hour in 18-49.
CBS’ Survivor: South Pacific (3.1/9, 10.4 million) was down 9% from its premiere last week, while Criminal Minds (4.1/10, 14.1 million) was up a fraction (3%) from last fall’s premiere. CSI (3.1/8, 12.6 million), with new leading man Ted Danson, did OK in its move to the Wednesday 10 PM slot, down a modest 9% from its higher-profile Thursday berth and winning the slot in total viewers. It improved the new time period, posting CBS’ best 18-49 and total viewer delivery in the hour with regular programming in 19 months — since a February 2010 episode of another CSI series, spinoff CSI: NY. CBS (3.5/9, 12.2 million) won the night in viewers.
At 10 PM, CSI topped in the demo and viewers NBC’s veteran Law & Order: SVU (2.3/6, 7.6 million), which also is undergoing a leading-man switch this season, following the departure of Chris Meloni. SVU was down a steep 28% in 18-49 from its premiere last fall to log its lowest-rated season premiere ever. And this was not the worst news for NBC last night as SVU was actually the highest-rated NBC program for the night, tied with new comedy Up All Night (2.3/7, 6.1 million). The Christina Applegate-starrer was down 38% from its preview behind the America’s Got Talent finale last week but, given the competition and its lead-off 8 PM position, that was a solid delivery for a show in its second week. And since NBC struggled mightily in the 8 PM hour last season (Undercovers, anyone?), Up All Night actually posted NBC’s highest in-season numbers in the 8-8:30 PM slot since last December. But things look pretty bleak for fellow new NBC comedy Free Agents (1.3/4, 3.9 million), which lost almost half of its Up All Night lead-in and is inching ever closer to cancellation. Also disappointing was the second-season premiere of David E. Kelley’s Harry’s Law (1.2/3, 7.3 million), which hit a series low at 9 PM, down 38% in the demo from its January debut.
PREVIOUS 7:30 AM: Despite Simon Cowell’s statements yesterday that he wants his The X Factor to beat American Idol (and every other show) in the ratings, that doesn’t seem to be be happening, at least not with the X Factor premiere last night. In the metered-market household ratings, Fox’s singing competition show drew an 8.8 household rating, compared to the 14.2 rating for the Idol season premiere last January. In head-to-head competition, the show was beaten by both ABC’s Modern Family (9.7) and CBS’ Criminal Minds (9.0). So X Factor appears to be closer to NBC’s The Voice than Idol ratings-wise, which has actually been more or less Fox’s projection (but not Cowell’s). CBS’ CSI did OK in its move to Wednesday, dominating the 10 PM hour with a 7.9 rating. More when the fast-national ratings are released in about an hour.