Snapshot, updated with finals: New-ish series premiere: CBS’ Murphy Brown (1.1 in 18-49 Live+Same Day rating, 7.5 million viewers); Returning series premieres: All series down year-to-year, most equaled or hit new series lows.
Yesterday was a day unlike any other. After more than eight hours of gripping TV, with a large portion of the nation glued to their screens to follow the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, some kept their TVs on the cable news networks, whose primetime viewership average spiked by 77% last night vs 2017’s premiere week average. And some may have been just too emotionally drained to take in primetime programming.
That resulted in a night of pretty dismal ratings for the broadcast networks. While Thursday Night Football did well for Fox, there was little to cheer about for the entertainment programs which underperformed across the board, even the unusually unflappable Grey’s Anatomy. That includes the debut of the Murphy Brown revival on CBS, which may have been particularly affected by the unfortunate timing with its heavily political content, airing at the end of a very politically charged news day.
Murphy Brown, which aired from 9:30-10:05 PM, drew 7.5 million viewers and a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49 in the updated fast nationals. That was well below the debuts last season of two other comedy revivals, NBC’s Will & Grace (3.0 in 18-49, 10.2 million L+SD, which also faced Thursday Night Football last fall), and ABC’s Roseanne, which stunned with a 5.2 demo ratings and 18.2 million viewers for its spring launch. As could be expected, Murphy Brown was older-skewing, drawing larger viewership but slightly lower 18-49 rating than the season opener of Life In Pieces in the time slot lat fall. It was the least watched and lowest rated among CBS’ Thursday comedies.
Here is the rest of the largely depressing broadcast ratings from last night.
CBS’ The Big Bang Theory (2.2 after upward adjustment, 12.0 million) slipped from its modes (by BBT standards) Monday premiere to hit a series L+SD low in total viewers, two tenths above a series low in 18-49. It still ranked as the highest-rated and most-watched entertainment program of the night.
Spinoff Young Sheldon (1.6, 10.1 million), one of the breakout hits of last season, is having a rough fall. Likely impacted by the softer BBT ratings, Young Sheldon has hit new L+SD series lows in each of its two airings this season. Mom (1.3, 8 million) matched its series-low demo delivery, which it also posted in the most recent season finale. And S.W.A.T. (0.7, 4.7 million) also hit fresh series lows. The male-skewing drama may have been impacted by the NFL competition on the night.
For years, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy had defied its age and held steady with strong season premieres amid a sea of year-to-year declines. On a brutal night for broadcast scripted series, the Shonda Rhimes medical drama opened its 15th season to a 1.9 rating in 18-49 after upward adjustment and 6.8 million viewers from 8-10 PM, off 17% from last fall’s opener. That was still the second-highest demo rating for an entertainment program last night, behind only Big Bang. At 10 PM, How to Get Away with Murder (0.8, 3 million) matched a demo L+SD series low and hit a new one in total viewers.
This may sound like a broken record by now, but NBC’s series too hit some lows last night as the network finished a distant fourth with low L+SD averages of a 1.0 in 18-49 and 4.1 million viewers after a strong Monday-Tuesday season start.
The Good Place will likely forever remain a cult favorite that does well in streaming and delayed viewing but cannot draw a large enough crowd in front of the TVs on premiere night. The praised comedy’s hourlong Season 3 premiere logged a 0.9 in 18-49 and 3.1 million viewers (L+SD), a demo low and tied for a viewership low. And yet, that delivery equaled NBC’s highest non-sports rating in the Thursday 8-9 PM time slot since February 2.
The small lead-in probably hurt the two-hour premiere of stalwart Law & Order: SVU‘s record-tying 20th season, which averaged a 1.1 in 18-49 and 5.1 million viewers, down from last fall’s premiere in its old Wednesday slot to tie a demo low and hit a viewership low.
Fox is projected to win the night with the debut of Thursday Night Football. The game between the Los Angeles Rams and Minnesota Vikings drew a 10.7/19 in metered market ratings on its new network, up 8% over last year’s TNF opener on CBS and NFL Network. In the finals, Thursday Night Football averaged a 4.8 adults 18-49 rating and 14.5 million viewers.