Snapshot (updated with finals): New series premieres: This Is Us (2.8 in 18-49, 10 million), Bull (2.2, 15.6 million); Returning series premieres all down; NBC’s The Voice (3.4 in 18-49) and CBS’ NCIS (16.0 million viewers) top night.
The 100 million-plus views for the trailer of This Is Us translated into eyeballs for the premiere of the NBC dramedy from Dan Fogelman, which opened with a 2.8 in adults 18-49 and 10 million viewers at 10 PM. It was one of two solid series debuts last night, along with CBS’ Bull (2.2 in 18-49, 15.4 million).
This is not something we are used to seeing in recent years — two days into the season, we don’t have a single flop, with two consecutive nights of solid new series openers, all logging a 2+ Live+Same Day demo rating, which is considered impressive these days. They all came courtesy of CBS (Kevin Can Wait, Bull) and NBC (The Good Place, This Is Us). And the streak may continue tonight with ABC’s Designated Survivor and Speechless and Fox’s Lethal Weapon as the networks have front-loaded their fall rollouts with the strongest-tracking and/or best-reviewed new broadcast series.
This Is Us has been an anomaly all around. It was a spec script Fogelman took out shortly after moving to 20th TV following the cancellation of his ABC comedy The Neighbors. It was an off-cycle buy by NBC and an off-cycle pilot with no big stars or pre-sold title. But somehow, it stayed strong as pilot season progressed and landed one of the two best protected slots on the NBC schedule, behind The Voice on Tuesday. Then the trailer cut from the pilot for NBC’s upfront presentation took off online. And just a couple of days before the premiere, one of the This Is Us stars, Sterling K. Brown, won an Emmy for People V. O.J. Simpson.
For all the parallels drawn to NBC’s praised drama Parenthood for the big emotional punch and a dose of humor both pack, it was only appropriate that the This Is Us premiere was NBC’s highest-rated scripted program in the 10 PM slot in more than six years, since the April 20, 2010 episode of Parenthood (2.9). In total viewers, This Is Us was NBC’s most-watched scripted program in the hour in more than seven years, since Law & Order: SVU (11.5 million in June 2009). This also was the highest-rated new 10 PM drama premiere since NBC’s Blindspot (3.1 in 18-49) last September. This Is Us dominated the 10 PM competition, out-delivering the demo results for the season premieres of CBS’ NCIS: New Orleans (1.4) and ABC’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1.1) combined.
This Is Us was the second-highest-rated program in 18-49 last night behind lead-in The Voice (3.4, 12.2 million), which is running off a tenth vs. last fall’s Tuesday opener and up a tenth from this fall’s Monday debut. After a few weeks of two-hour episodes of The Voice, the reality series will revert to hourlong shows, with This Is Us moving to 9 PM.
There, it will face CBS newbie The Bull. With its scheduling — nestled between veteran NCIS and NCIS: New Orleans — and its casting — toplined by popular NCIS co-star Michael Weatherly — the freshman drama was virtually Bull-etproof. And it lived up to the expectations (and solid pre-launch tracking), holding onto its entire NCIS (2.1, 15.6 million) lead-in in the demo. (In fast nationals, Bull, 2.2, 15.5 million, even built on NCIS‘ demo delivery but the long-running procedural often is adjusted up in the finals.) UPDATE 2 PM: NCIS indeed went up to a 2.2 demo rating in the finals.
The 100% (or more) lead-in retention for Bull, from Amblin TV, is up from the 86% posted by the debut of NCIS: New Orleans (1.4, 11.1 million) in the hour two years ago. Speaking of the NCIS spinoff, its ratings took an expected drop in the move from the post-NCIS 9 PM slot to 10 PM, down 18% in the demo from last fall’s opener. NCIS: NO also was down 26% from the Live+SD series premiere in the 10 PM time slot of the now-defunct new drama Limitless last year. The mothership NCIS was down 16% in the demo from last fall’s opener.
There is not much to say about the other series returns last night, all of which barely cracked the 1 demo rating. Fox ceased to report Live+SD ratings because of frustration over the performance of the Ryan Murphy co-created horror comedy Scream Queens last fall as they represented a fraction of the young-skewing series’ multi-platform viewing. Still, the Season 2 premiere (1.0 in 18-49, 2.2 million) of the campy comedy raises a concern as it was down 41% in the demo from the series opener with the show’s second-smallest audience. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (1.0, adjusted to 1.1 in the finals, 2.4 million) was down 33% from its fall 2015 debut, New Girl (1.2, 2.3 million) was off by 14%. Both are significant DVR/VOD gainers but these are some very dismal numbers for a Big 4 network, with a 2.3 million viewers nightly Live+SD average.
ABC did better in the viewership department (6.7 million) thanks to Dancing With The Stars from 8-10 PM (1.5, 8.5 million). But in its new 10 PM slot, Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1.1 in 18-49 and 3.6 million viewers), another scripted series that drives a large portion of its ratings from delayed/digital viewing, was down sharply, 35%, in 18-49 from its season debut at 9 PM last fall and did only marginally better than the series premiere last fall of the very short-lived ABC drama Wicked City in ABC’s black hole of a time slot at 10 PM Tuesdays.
NBC (3.2 in 18-49, 11.4 million) won the night in 18-49 by a wide margin, while CBS (1.9, 14.1 million) was tops in total viewers.