Snapshot, updated with finals: New series premieres: Manifest (NBC, 2.2 rating in 18-49, 10.3 million viewers), Magnum P.I. (CBS, 1.2, 8.1 million); Returning series premieres: The Big Bang Theory (2.5, -39%, 12.9 million) tops night, Young Sheldon, The Good Doctor, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, Bull also down double-digits; The Good Doctor matched series low; The Resident was up a fraction from its regular-slot series debut.
The 2018-19 broadcast season launched last night amid an unprecedented upheaval among the top management at the networks. And while the constant shuffles have been distracting, let’s try and focus on how the new and returning series performed in their openers. While Live+Same day ratings is no longer a currency the networks use, they are still a pretty good indicator of which shows are breaking through and which ones are failing to do so.
We have the first potential fall breakout series in NBC’s Manifest, which debuted to a 2.2 rating in 18-49 and 10.3 million viewers, building onto its Voice lead-in (2.0, 9.6 million), the first NBC Monday telecast to do so. The missing plane drama, whose pilot’s opening act was released online ahead of the premiere and drew 1.2 million on YouTube alone, topped the 10 PM drama competition, the Season 2 premiere of ABC’s The Good Doctor (1.4, 7.8 million), last year’s premiere night standout alongside CBS’ Young Sheldon, and Season 3 debut of CBS’ Bull (0.9, 7.3 million)
After NBC opted for the more run-of-the-mill The Brave military drama, from Universal TV, in the Monday 10 PM slot last year to unimpressive results, the network again went for a flashy new series with a big mystery from an outside studio with Warner Bros. TV’s Manifest. Like its predecessors, WBTV’s Revolution and Blindspot as well as Sony TV’s The Blacklist and, to lesser extent Timeless, Manifest was hot out of the gate.
It matched the debut of The Good Doctor last fall as the highest-rated drama series premiere in 18-49 (excluding post-NFL previews) since This Is Us (2.8 on Sept. 20, 2016). It was NBC’s most-watched drama series premiere since Blindspot (10.6 million on Sept. 21, 2015).
Revolution, Blindspot and Timeless all started losing steam and fizzled when relocated on a new night, with Revolution and Timeless canceled after two seasons. It remains to be seen if Manifest, whose dense mythology is reminiscent to Revolution, will be able to keep its numbers strong once part of its mystery is solved. It could be done as demonstrated by ABC’s Lost.
At 8 PM, NBC’s The Voice fell another 23% from its fall premiere last year to a new season opener low after a similar 21% year-to-year drop last September, so the venerable singing competition may have hit the downward trajectory of American Idol in the late stages of its run on Fox.
Still, NBC easily topped Premiere Monday in all key measures, including total viewers (9.8 million, edging CBS’ 9.7 million) and adults 18-49 (2.1)
CBS’ plan to revamp its once dominant Monday night lineup after a subpar performance last season is still work in progress, with so-so debuts for new drama Magnum P.I. and the relocated Bull.
The below-expectation delivery started with the final season premiere of The Big Bang Theory (2.5, 12.9 million) and the Season 2 debut of spinoff Young Sheldon (1.7, 10.6 million). Both were way off their fall 2017 debuts in the same time period last September (-39% for Big Bang, -54% for Young Sheldon in 18-49) and also off their last season’s averages. Big Bang still ranked as the top program of the night in total viewers and 18-49.
For the action-packed Magnum P.I., whose pilot was directed by Justin Lin, CBS used the same strategy it used for another action drama, Scorpion, whose pilot was directed by Lin. Both were slotted behind a comedy block in the Monday 9 PM hour. Scorpion opened with a 3.2 in the demo with a much stronger lead-in from an hourlong season premiere of Big Bang (5.4).
Magnum P.I. (1.2, 8.1 million) actually had a stronger lead-in retention (71% vs. 59%) but, given its title recognition, CBS brass likely were hoping that the reboot could hold up on its own, especially given the fact that its regular lead-in will be two new comedies. Things did not get better at 10 PM where Bull (0.9, 7.3 million), which was down -30% in the demo from its Season 2 premiere in the protected post-NCIS time slot on Tuesday.
Like MacGyver, Magnum P.I. is expected to be a major international seller and make money. However, unlike MacGyver, which is owned by CBS, Magnum P.I. is a co-production with NBCUniversal, which handles international distribution.
Fox did solid business with its new Monday drama lineup. In its second season premiere, The Resident (1.1, 4.9 million) tied its best Monday L+SD delivery in the demo, up a tenth from its time slot debut last season when it aired at 9 PM on Monday with a lead-in vs. opening the night at 8 PM against the biggest scripted series on TV, Big Bang, last night.
9-1-1‘s regular slot Season 2 debut (6.6 mil/1.6) was on par with its freshman average for Fox’ s highest rated fall Monday telecast in three years (It was expectedly down from the Sunday preview behind a football game, which scored series high 2.6 in 18-49 and 9.8 million viewers.).
Fox logged its most watched fall Monday night in Live+same day in four years as the network switched to procedurals, which traditionally do better in live viewing, from the DVR/streaming-friendly genre lineup of Gotham/Lucifer/The Gifted/Minority Report it had on the night for the past several years.
Against stronger competition, last fall’s breakout, ABC’s The Good Doctor (1.3, 7.4 million after downward adjustment in the finals) was down 41% from last year to tie a demo series low. The medical drama also logged its smallest L+SD audience ever.
Still, The Good Doctor built onto its lead-in, stalwart Dancing With the Stars (1.0, 7.7 million after downward adjustment), was down 30% in the demo vs. its year-ago premiere.
On ESPN, last night’s Monday Night Football game – a Pittsburgh Steelers’ 30-27 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – drew an 8.4 overnight rating in the metered markets. That was up a notch from last week’s 8.2.