After two days of fireworks with the big premieres of Young Sheldon, The Good Doctor and sophomore This Is Us, there were no big standouts on Wednesday night, which was marked by a steep overall year-to-year ratings drop for the Big 4 networks. The only new series, CBS’ drama SEAL Team, did solid business fitting into the network’s lineup with strong viewership pull and OK demo performance.
Two former No. 1 broadcast drama series, Fox’s Empire and NBC’s The Blacklist, fared OK in their moves to new time slots. NBC’s This Is Us decisively has taken the crown of highest-rated broadcast drama from Empire from the get-go this season (3.8 in 18-49 in fast nationals for the Season 2 premiere of This Is Us vs. 2.4 for Empire). Last year, they started at 4.2 for Empire and 2.8 for This Is Us, with NBC’s upstart edging the incumbent toward the end of the season.
Empire, which likely will be adjusted up (This Is Us went up to a 3.9 yesterday), was down a steep 41% from its season premiere last fall in its old 9 PM slot and off from its season average but even with its finale. It also provided a nice boost to sophomore Star (1.8), which had its best rating since its series premiere last season, which also followed Empire, outperforming its Season 1 average. Star likely also was helped by a crossover with Empire, so next week will give us a better indication whether Empire fans who sampled it will stick around.
CBS veteran Survivor (1.7, updated to 1.8 in the finals; 8.1 million) was down 26% from its fall 2016 90-minute premiere but matched its spring opener in the demo and topped it slightly in viewers. At 9 PM, new drama SEAL Team (1.5, 9.7 million) replaced longtime time-slot dweller Criminal Minds, whose season premiere in the hour last fall drew a 1.8 in 18-49 and 8.9 million viewers in the fast nationals. While SEAL Team was off in the demo, its Survivor lead-in retention was in line with Criminal Minds‘ last year. What CBS brass — which uses (and sells) largely total viewership as currency — likely will be encouraged by is SEAL Team’s viewership strength. The military drama, which expectedly appealed to older audiences, built on its Survivor lead-in in total viewers to rank as the most-watched program of the night and also topped Criminal Minds‘ 2016 debut. As for Criminal Minds (1.3, 7 million), the veteran was down year-to-year (from both debut and finale) while slightly improving on the Code Black premiere (1.2, 6.7 million) in the 10 PM hour last fall.
The Blacklist made its second time-slot transition with a 1.1 and 6.2 million viewers in the Wednesday 8 PM hour. That was off by 0.2 in 18-49 from its most recent season opener on Thursday but marked the drama’s largest audience in almost a year and its best demo delivery since November 10. Law & Order: SVU (1.4, 5.7 million) was down 22% from fall 2016 premiere and Chicago P.D. (1.3, 6 million) down 19% while up a tenth, matching their respective finales.
For Empire, and especially The Blacklist, which moved to a brand-new night, DVR bumps will be key in evaluating year-to-year premiere performance as fans are still discovering them in their new berths.
ABC’s lineup was down across the board from last fall though, all comedies were up from their finales, while drama Designated Survivor was on par with it.
The Goldbergs (1.8, 6.1 million) was off by a modest 10% from its L+SD demo debut last year, Speechless (1.4, 5 million) by 30%, Modern Family (2.1, 6.9 million) by 19% and American Housewife (1.6, 5.6 million), which aired on Tuesday last season, by 16%. American Housewife‘s Modern Family lead-in retention (76%) matched that of predecessor Black-ish on premiere week Wednesday last fall.
Designated Survivor (1.1, 5.5 million) tumbled 52% from its Live+same day series premiere demo delivery though the Kiefer Sutherland-starring drama’s strength has been in delayed viewing, so it may close the gap in Live+7.
Empire led Fox to a nightly win in 18-49 (2.1) while CBS was No.1 in total viewers (8.3 million)