Premiere Week used to be the ultimate make-it-or-break-it test for the broadcast networks, a barometer for which new shows will be hot that season and which will likely die. Today, more and more networks schedule their fall premieres outside of premiere week, diminishing the importance of the season’s opening week. Last year, some of the strongest new fall series — ABC’s Once Upon A Time and Suburgatory and NBC’s Grimm — all launched outside premiere week. This year, the list includes NBC’s Revolution and Go On, which premiered early, and ABC’s highest-profile new series, drama Nashville, which debuts next week.
And then there is the rising power of DVRs, especially for returning series. During Premiere Week last year, four series — Two And A Half Men, Modern Family, How I Met Your Mother and The Middle — were up double-digits from the previous fall’s premieres. This year, only one returning show, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, posted year-to-year gains, a testament to the series’ masterfully crafted cliffhangers. But many series are expected to make up ground in Live+7 as pundits point to this season as the one where shifted viewing reaches critical mass for a major impact on ratings reporting. So far, only Live+3 ratings for series that aired Monday-Wednesday last week are in. They show an average of 26% lift in adults 18-49, up from 20% last fall, as DVR contribution has crossed the one-quarter mark only three days after the shows’ original airing.
Not surprisingly, top-rated comedy Modern Family is the biggest ratings gainer for now, adding 1.75 in 18-49 (31.6%) for a stellar 7.3 Live+3 demo rating. Somewhat surprisingly, as viewers tend to overwhelmingly favor returning shows for their season passes, Modern Family‘s gain is tied for No. 1 with that for new NBC drama Revolution. Overall, the 1.75 Live+3 increase for Revolution represents the largest percentage gain for any Monday-Wednesday series (50.6%) and vaults the futuristic series to a 5.19 demo rating, the second-highest behind Modern Family last week. It edged the series that helped launch it, NBC’s The Voice (5.18). The big DVR jump on top of already strong ratings (with a 3.5 Live+Same Day rating in 18-49, Revolution was already the highest-rated freshman series of Premiere Week) is an indication that the big premiere for the JJ Abrams/Eric Kripke drama the week before was not a fluke; viewers liked what they saw and put the series on their DVR lists.
Revolution is the brightest new prospect so far this season, which has been short on standouts. CBS fielded two dramas that show potential: Elementary (3.1 in 18-49, 13.4 million viewers in Live+Same Day), and Vegas (2.5/7, 14.9 million), the most-watched new series during Premiere Week. In an encouraging sign, Vegas went up to a 3.2 in 18-49 in Live+3 (its audience also grew to 17.2 million). The other new drama series so far underperformed, ABC’s Last Resort and 666 Park Avenue (both at a 2.2 demo rating in Live+Same Day) and especially Fox’s Mob Doctor and CBS’ Made In Jersey.
Last fall, new comedies were leading the pack early in the season, with strong premieres for 2 Broke Girls, New Girl, Suburgatory, Whitney and Up All Night. This year, new drama seem to be dominating the conversation, with NBC’s Matthew Perry starrer Go On the only freshman comedy that appears a shoo-in for a back-nine pickup. It averaged a 2.7 18-49 rating in Live+same day and a 3.2 in Live+3 last week. Also considered a strong possibility for a back order is Go On‘s companion, The New Normal, which shot up 38% in Live+3 to a 2.8 in 18-49. ABC’s The Neighbors got off to a solid start (3.2 in 18-49 Live+Same Day) but needs to prove its mettle in its regular 8:30 PM slot this week. Very low for CBS standards was the premiere of the network’s new comedy Partners, while the ratings for NBC’s Guys With Kids and especially Animal Practice have been disappointing.
Fox’s new comedies The Mindy Project (2.4) and Ben & Kate (2.1) were also soft in premieres. (They went up to a 2.9 and 2.4, respectively, in Live+3) Their lead-in, New Girl, shot up 38% in Live+3 to a respectable 3.8 in 18-49 after very modest Live+Same Day premiere ratings. And two very low-rated returning shows — ABC’s Private Practice and CBS’ Hawaii Five-0, both at a 1.9 demo Live+Same Day rating in 18-49 — perked up, to a 2.8 and a 2.6 rating, respectively. Private Practice‘s low live performance may be explained with viewers not yet used to its relatively new Tuesday time slot, while Hawaii was hit by Monday Night Football and the new demo force in the Monday 10 PM slot, Revolution.
Here are the preliminary network standings for Premiere Week. The big move is NBC’s climb from No. 4 last year to a somewhat surprising No. 1 on the strength of its successful expansion of The Voice to fall and the potent launch of Revolution. This marks NBC’s first outright premiere-week demo win in nine years with its highest 18-49 premiere-week rating in four years.
All the other networks are down double-digits. CBS faces comparison to a blockbuster Premiere Monday last year featuring the debut of the rebooted Two And A Half Men. Besides rock-solid The Big Bang Theory, the network’s comedies have all posted declines, and its Monday lineup shows vulnerability for the first time in years. The jury is still out on the move of veteran Two And A Half Men to Thursday.
Fox is the only network without a new show in the 3 demo rating range so far this season after the success with New Girl and The X Factor last fall. With X Factor down from last year, the new Tuesday comedy block slow out of the gate and no solid new shows, the network is looking forward to midseason with the return of American Idol and the launch of drama The Following.
ABC’s attempt to stem the rapid ratings erosion of Dancing With The Stars with an all-star edition did not work, which, coupled with a so-so start for its freshman series, contributed to the network’s year-over-year declines. Here are the rankings (The CW’s fall lineup does not premiere until later this month):
No. 1, NBC, 2.9/8 (up 12%)
No. 2, Fox, 2.7/7 (down 18%)
No. 3, CBS, 2.4/7 (down 20%)
No. 4, ABC, 2.3/6 (down 18%)
No. 5, Univision, 1.4/4 (down 7%)