SPOILER ALERT: This report contains details about the premiere episode of The Masked Singer.
Fox breezed through to a Wednesday ratings win unveiling a celebrity singing hippo.
Against mostly repeat competition, the premiere performance of The Masked Singer (3.0 demo rating, 9.36 million viewers), in which the first six costumed celebrity singers — aka Peacock, Hippo, Monster, Unicorn, Deer and Lion — faced off, was the top program of the night both in the 18-49 age bracket and in overall audience.
(Hippo got unmasked, after studio audience and celebrity panelists voted him out, based on exuberant, if vocally mediocre, performance of “My Prerogative.”)
The Masked Singer is the highest rated unscripted debut on any network in seven years, excluding post-NFL, since The X Factor launch in September 2011.
It’s the top series debut of this TV season in the demo – and it marks the highest rating for an unscripted telecast on any broadcast network going back two seasons.
The win is more impressive given Tribune’s Fox affiliates in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Greensboro, Kansas City, San Diego and St. Louis went dark due to Charter ceasing carriage.
SPOILERS: The booted Hippo turned out to be Antonio Brown, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ disgruntled wide receiver whose internecine battles with his team have been much in the news of late. The Pittsburgh Gazette reported Wednesday that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin declined to speculate whether Brown could be traded or released. While maybe not quite as dramatic as performing in a Hippo mask on Fox, Brown caused a kerfuffle when — after four days of intentionally sitting out practice, skipping important team meetings and failing to return his coach’s phone calls — he turned up at Heinz Field on Sunday to play against the Cincinnati Bengals. Tomlin inform the player’s agent that “wasn’t on the menu,” the Gazette reported. Brown’s unhappiness began at a Wednesday walk-through when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger scolded him for running the wrong route, the newspaper reported.
The only broadcast program to offer even a whiff of competition to Fox’s Hippo/Brown unmasking was CBS’ 8 PM repeat of The Big Bang Theory (1.0, 6.91M); it was followed by Young Sheldon (0.9, 6.25M). At 9 PM, an original SEAL Team (0.9, 6.22M) clung to its lead-in numbers against The Masked Singer launch; an original Criminal Minds (0.7, 4.88M) did not fare as well.
The Masked Singer had built bigly on its lead-in, Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back premiere (1.2, 4.14M).
The other broadcasters waited out the night with repeat programming. That included NBC, noting happily the second of its Wednesday Chicago trilogy, repeat Chicago Fire (0.6, 3.75M) hung on to 100% of previous week’s rerun in the demo, against The Masked Singer, sandwiched between Chicago Med (0.6, 4.22M) and Chicago P.D. (0.5, 3.65M).
Fox (2.1, 6.68M) took the night, followed most closely in both metrics by CBS (0.8, 5.89M). A lap behind came NBC (0.6, 3.87M) and ABC (0.6, 2.49M) tied for No. 3 in the demo. CW (0.2, 514K) followed.