NBC again looking like a plucked Peacock
by Ed Bark on September 30th 2011 at 3:17 pm
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The new TV season is still in diapers, but it's not too early to tell that NBC again would be nowhere without Sunday Night Football.
Yearning to dig itself out of fourth place in the prime-time Nielsen ratings, the Peacock instead appears to be digging itself deeper. Its highest profile new series, The Playboy Club, has shown no hop in its step and is in line to be fall's first new series to be canceled unless the NBC sitcom Free Agents beats it to the cemetery.
Neither made prime-time's top 60 in Week 1 of the ratings race among ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and The CW. Nor did they register with advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-olds, the prime target audience in terms of profits and losses.
So what did work for NBC? As usual, pro football, which ran second in Week 1 in both the total viewer and 18-to-49 measurements. NBC's most-watched show otherwise was the return of The Office, which ranked 47th in total viewers and 22nd among 18-to-49-year-olds.
Other returning series are struggling on NBC, most notably The Sing-Off, Parenthood, Community and Parks and Recreation. Newcomers Whitney, Up All Night and the Prime Suspect remake also are having tough times but still have a chance to survive a season in which NBC can't just cancel everything.
In Week 1, NBC's average of 7.5 million total viewers for its prime-time programming was nowhere in the vicinity of No. 1 CBS's 12.1 million. Among 18-to-49-year-olds, Fox topped the field with an average of 4.3 million while No. 4 NBC had 3.3 million.
As previously posted, Fox has the surprise new hit of the season in the Zooey Deschanel comedy New Girl. And although the opening returns for both The X Factor and Terra Nova fell short of expectations, they're still giving Fox a bigger fall than it usually has before American Idol re-arrives in January. So far Fox is the only broadcast network to show year-to-year increases in both total viewers and 18-to-49-year-olds.
Other networks -- other than NBC -- have their bright spots, too. The return of CBS' Two and a Half Men, with Ashton Kutcher supplanting Charlie Sheen, set a ratings record for the long-running comedy with 28.7 million viewers. That easily made it the No. 1 show of the week.
CBS' latest two crime series, Unforgettable and Person of Interest, and the new comedy 2 Broke Girls all made the top 20 in total viewers, although the latter was greatly helped by its Two and a Half Men lead-in. Returnees NCIS and The Big Bang Theory also remain very potent.
ABC's Dancing with the Stars is starting to show its age, though, particularly in the motherlode demographic. Its season-opening performance edition fell to 20th among 18-to-49-year-olds while the results hour limped into 47th place. The network's Charlie's Angels re-do also failed to arouse much interest, particularly in the 18-to-49 demographic. The premiere episode finished 58th on that scorecard, trailing several Spanish language telenovela episodes on Univision.
The li'l CW network has lower expectations ratings-wise. But its new foursome of Ringer, The Secret Circle, Hart of Dixie and H8R so far have been ratings clinkers with little buzz attached. The network's audience levels in Week 1 were down sharply from a year ago.
In that respect, misery loves company. Which gives NBC at least one network to look down upon while its executives again scramble to find replacement troops.