Sunday night felt like fall premiere week — we had a series debut, ABC’s Deception, a season opener, NBC’s Timeless, a series/season premiere, ABC’s American Idol revival, and a headline-grabbing counter-programming stunt, Fox’s O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession? special, intended to ding the launch of the network’s former stalwart, Idol, on rival ABC.
American Idol opened with 10.3 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in adults 18-49 from 8-10 PM. That was down 21% in the demo and 6% in total viewers from the last season premiere on Fox to mark the lowest Live+Same Day Idol opener ever. The ABC debut also was below the Idol series finale on Fox (13.3 million, 3.04 in 18-49), but above the final season average.
How does it compare with the other singing competition on TV? The current season of NBC’s The Voice, featuring first Idol winner Kelly Clarkson as mentor, drew a 2.8 in 18-49 and 12.3 million viewers (L+SD) in its debut a couple of weeks ago.
Still, the the pricey Idol, the highest-rated and most-watched broadcast program last night, dramatically improved ABC’s ratings fortunes on Sunday where the network has averaged a 1.0 in 18-49 from 8-10 PM (L+SD). It delivered ABC’s biggest L+SD audience with series programming in the time period in four years and top adult 18-49 rating since November 2014.
Idol helped launch new ABC drama Deception (1.3 in 18-49, 6.1 million). Buoyed by its stronger lead-in, Deception easily won the 10 PM hour with the best scripted premiere numbers in the hour since Quantico in September 2015. It was a respectable start for a 10 PM drama in the current ratings environment though not a breakout delivery of the caliber of ABC’s The Good Doctor, which opened with a 2.2 in 18-49 in the fall with a smaller demo lead-in.
Fox’s strategy to disrupt Idol’s debut was reasonably successful — airing against the music reality series’ much hyped return, its O.J. Simpson: The Lost Confession? special drew 1.2 in 18-49 and 4.4 million total viewers.
NBC’s Timeless beat the odds in May when it reversed cancellation to get a Season 2 pickup. Despite its title, the heavily serialized drama faced a major time lapse challenge, with its second season launching a full year after the first one ended its run. The time-travel series picked up close to where it left off, with a 0.8 in 18-49 and 3 million viewers. It was off by a fraction from its Season 1 finale (0.9, 3.4 million), which benefited from a more potent lead-in, an American Ninja Warrior: All-Stars (1.4) special, on Monday. In its return, Timeless again followed an ANW special, American Ninja Warrior: USA Vs. the World (0.9, 3.5 million), which did not do as well as its predecessor against stiff competition.
Against the strong competition, CBS’ Sunday dramas had a hard time re-entering the field after eight-week breaks. NCIS: Los Angeles (0.9, 8 million) was down two tenths, while Madam Secretary (0.6, 6.3 million) slipped one tenth from its most recent original to tie an all-time demo low.