Tonight the long winter of NBC ratings discontent could be over and a spring renewal finally begin. Which is another way of saying The Voice is back on Monday for its 4th season. Sweetening the package for viewers, the network is also bringing back the J.J. Abrams-produced drama Revolution after the heavily promoted Voice premiere. Another NBC hopeful is the premiere of Hannibal on April 4th. But by the time The Silence Of The Lambs prequel hits the small screen, we’ll already know whether the bleeding has stopped.
The Voice airs tonight from 8-10 PM, followed by Revolution which after a strong start on September 17th has been dark since November 25. It ends its freshman season May 27, while The Voice wraps its fourth season June 18 with a live two-hour finale. After a sabbatical this season by original judges Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguilera, Usher and Shakira join Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. Which means The Voice is losing half of its winning panel. “They are taking a risk bringing in new judges; it didn’t help X Factor and it didn’t help Idol,” notes a rival network exec. Since the hit singing competition series went off the air on December 18, NBC has had months of dismal ratings, freshman flops and cancellations. And the pain isn’t just limited to primetime: Over the past several months, the once mighty Today show has stumbled behind Good Morning America and continues to lose ground. While the numbers are stable, there is a PR fiasco in the making in late-night with rumors of Jimmy Fallon replacing Jay Leno on The Tonight Show swirling around. Meanwhile, the network went from winning the November sweep for the first time since 2003 to tumbling all the way down to fifth place for the first time in February.
But the return tonight of ratings juggernaut The Voice could turn that around. Even though it was down overall last season vs. its previous cycle, at the end of its last season late last year, 14 million viewers watched The Voice finale. Among adults 18-49, it drew a 4.9 and was up 18% over the 4.4 of its previous Season 2 finale — good for a finale and season high.
On the other hand, the return of The Voice might not be enough to halt NBC’s decline. For one thing, it’s not last season when NBC had the much watched Summer Olympics and NFL football to promote the series which was first greenlit in the dying days of Jeff Zucker’s NBCU regime. With few watching the network (again), NBC now under Bob Greenblatt has been pulling out all marketing stops with billboard ads, online ads, magazine ads and anything else that will inform an audience The Voice is back since house ads aren’t reaching enough eyeballs. “I think the return of Voice is going to do well, but I don’t think it’s going save NBC like they seem to think it will. And it’s hard to tell with Revolution which seems to have been off the air forever,” an executive at another network told me.