But for bounce-back performances from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and The X Factor, every returning Wednesday night broadcast series lost ground. In some cases, the regression was downright ugly.
First the good news: According to Nielsen fast national data, a special two-hour premiere of Law & Order: SVU delivered 9.58 million viewers and a 2.7 rating among adults 18-49, marking a 29 percent improvement versus last year’s 2.1. Earlier in the night, Fox’s musical competition series drew 7.73 million viewers and a season-high 2.5 in the dollar demo, up 14 percent from last Wednesday’s 2.2 rating.
Unfortunately, the rest of the night was a war of attrition. After shifting out of its plush post-Voice berth to the Wednesday 8 p.m. time slot, NBC’s Revolution took a huge hit, falling 56 percent in the demo to a series-low 1.8 rating. A year ago, Revolution bowed to 11.7 million viewers and a 4.1 rating, making it the biggest series opener of the 2012-13 campaign.
While Revolution was expected to fall off without its lead-in—even with The Voice doing much of the heavy lifting, the final seven episodes of Season 1 never broke the 2.0 barrier—the weak start is cause for concern. (Put it this way: When compared to the time slot premieres of year-ago occupants Animal Practice and Guys with Kids, Revolution grew just three-tenths of a ratings point.)
One positive takeaway is that Revolution’s poor showing seemed to have little impact on L&O: SVU, which actually outdelivered the anchor by 50 percent. (New drama series Ironside bows Oct. 2 in the 10 p.m. slot.)
Last season, Revolution was given a back-nine order after just three episodes.
ABC won the night with an average 2.7 in the demo, but the network sustained ratings declines across the board. At 8 p.m., returning comedy The Middle earned a 2.5 in the demo, down 17 percent from last season’s one-hour premiere (2.9). Freshman comedy Back in the Game bowed to 8.01 million viewers and a 2.2, making it ABC’s lowest-rated fall comedy premiere since the ill-fated Kelsey Grammer vehicle Hank notched a 2.2 on Sept. 30, 2009.
Meanwhile, Modern Family posted its lowest premiere numbers, averaging 11.7 million viewers and a 4.2 rating, down 18 percent from the year-ago 5.1. That said, the one-hour season opener was the top-rated program on Wednesday night, as CBS’ Criminal Minds was a distant second with a 2.8.
Modern Family predictably dominated the female demos, drawing a 4.6 rating with women 18-49 and a 3.9 among the women 18-34 set. Moreover, the comedy ran the table in the male demos, averaging a 3.6 with men 18-49 and a 4.3 among men 25-54.
The family ensemble shrinks back into its customary 9 p.m. slot next week, making way for the series premiere of Rebel Wilson’s Super Fun Night. After the pilot took its critical lumps, ABC has elected to air Episode 2 of Super Fun Night in its stead.
Sophomore sudser Nashville dropped 29 percent in the demo, returning to 6.50 million viewers and a 2.0 rating. Elsewhere, CBS’ Survivor posted a series-low 2.4 in the demo, while Criminal Minds (2.8, down 10 percent) and CSI (2.0, down 17 percent) both delivered the lowest-rated premieres in their respective histories.