What if a new TV season launched and nobody came? Post-Olympics sneak peeks, video on demand and online previews have taken some of the excitement out of the traditional network premiere week, as none of the new shows has had breakout ratings (many CW series start this week). Also to blame: the fact that 45 percent of all TV households now have a DVR and that more viewers catch a show on their computer or iPad if they miss it on TV. "The immediacy and the excitement of seeing a show has gone away," confirms one network executive. But the season must go on. Here's what the numbers tell us.
NBC's ratings recovery, if it takes hold, starts with The Voice. The show's third cycle has astounded rivals by besting The X Factor and suddenly making NBC competitive on Monday and Tuesday nights, particularly among adults 18-49. It also demonstrated the value of competition shows, which have the immediacy that still demands live viewing.
NBC's new dystopian drama could be the first real hit driven by a lead-in from The Voice. After a strong premiere with 11.7 million viewers, the second episode won its time period in the 18-49 demo against first-run episodes of Hawaii Five-0 and Castle.
CBS clearly had a clue about where to program the Sherlock Holmes update, as its 18-49 audience grew 7 percent over its Person of Interest lead-in on Thursday.
Matthew Perry is finding his return to NBC therapeutic as he delivered the best sitcom premiere for the network since 2005's My Name Is Earl. Go On also stayed strong when it went up against Fox's New Girl. The show is looking good for a full-season order.
Modern Family/NCIS/The Big Bang Theory
As several returning shows faced severe ratings dips, the biggest scripted hits held their own. ABC's Modern opener attracted 14.4 million viewers, its second-biggest ever for a regular telecast. CBS' Big Bang drew 15.7 million viewers, a premiere record. And in its 10th season, CBS' NCIS garnered 20.5 million viewers, its second-largest premiere ever.
The latest straight/gay BFF comedy from Will & Grace producers was the weak link in CBS' Monday lineup, as its total audience dropped 25 percent from its How I Met Your Mother lead-in. Unless it improves, the network won't wait long to make a change, as it doesn't want to put 2 Broke Girls at risk in its new 9pm slot.
The Mob Doctor
Is it a medical drama or a Mafia show? Viewers may be confused because they didn't show up for the premiere (3.9 million viewers) in spite of a high-testing pilot. Fox insiders say they'll give the show a chance, but Brad Adgate, senior vice president at ad-buying firm Horizon Media, thinks the good doc will soon be sleeping with the fishes. "It will be the first show canceled," he predicts.
Dancing With the Stars
The All-Stars have flamed out at ABC. The show still attracts a hefty audience — 14.1 million on Night 1 — but it has lost many younger viewers. Insiders suspect that the return didn't get enough of a promo push, but others believe viewers may not be interested in watching dancers they've already seen.
NBC Wednesday Comedies
Looks like the primates weren't ready for prime time. Despite heavy marketing during the Olympics, Animal Practice finished fourth in viewers 18-49. Guys With Kids built slightly on Animal's lead-in, but it will need to attract more eyeballs to stick around.
JURY'S STILL OUT
Vegas opened to 14.9 million viewers on CBS and won the time slot in viewers 18-49 but didn't improve on what Unforgettable did last year in that category. Ben and Kate and The Mindy Project helped Fox win Tuesday among 18-to-34-year-olds. ABC's promotion of the pricey Last Resort paid off with 9 million viewers, but it'll need to maintain that to stay afloat. NBC's The New Normal is fading, though it's still hanging on to most of its Go On lead-in — and in the world of splintered audiences, that's the new norm.