Little Big Shots Draws 14.8 Million Viewers, and NBC Looks to Cash In With Advertisers

6 episodes left to woo new brands

Little Big Shots already wrapped production on Season 1, but NBCU hopes to find other ways to partner with brands. Danny Feld/NBC

NBC is used to dominating broadcast ratings on Sunday nights, but it usually only happens during football season. The network's Sunday fortunes routinely dry up once Sunday Night Football signs off for the year.

But NBC felt like Christmas (or the next NFL season) came early when it looked at this Sunday night's ratings. The debut of Little Big Shots, the Steve Harvey-hosted variety show that showcases talented kids, drew 14.8 million viewers overall and a 2.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic (which translates to around 3.56 million viewers). It was NBC's most-watched regular Sunday entertainment telecast since March 13, 2005, when an episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent attracted 15.7 million viewers.

The total viewer ratings improved on the show's post-Voice debut on Tuesday, when 12.8 million viewers tuned in and it had a 2.9 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds. It marked the first time NBC has won an in-season Sunday outright among broadcast networks in the 18-49 demo with a full night of entertainment series programming since April 8, 2004 (when the lineup consisted of Dateline, a Law & Order: Criminal Intent repeat and Crossing Jordan). And while most new shows lose viewers during the hour, Little Big Shots actually gained audience in its second half, jumping from a 2.6 demo rating to a 3.1.

Now, with a surprise midseason hit on its hands—one that could help NBC hold on to the coveted 18-49 demo crown for the third year in a row—NBCUniversal's ad sales team has six episodes of the series left in Season 1 to try and cash in with advertisers. UPDATE: Late Monday, NBC renewed Little Big Shots for a second season.

"We still have a little bit of time to do something fun, and we're certainly going to be out there in the next week or two trying to find people in the scatter market that are interested in figuring that out," said Dan Lovinger, evp, entertainment ad sales group, NBCUniversal. "But the last thing we want to do is something hasty that isn't well thought out. When you've got such a terrific launch pad like we've got with this show, we're going to do the right thing with it. Obviously we want to make sure that the talent involved is happy with what we do, as well as the production team, so that doesn't just happen overnight."

Little Big Shots was green lit last May, but "we didn't actually sell it as part of our upfront," said Lovinger. "While it was in development, we weren't ready to go and talk about it." The network also kept it under wraps during the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in January. "We've got this great thing we didn't even talk about today, because we couldn't get Steve Harvey out here, but this Little Big Shots show is really fun," Robert Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman, told Adweek at the time.

The network thought building on the fall success of Blindspot provided "the opportunity to blow a couple of shows out" in midseason, including Little Big Shots, which was "the tail end of that midseason strategy" that also included Superstore and Shades of Blue. Still, admitted Lovinger, "The truth is, we didn't know what we had until we had it on the screen and started testing, and we thought this could be really special."

So far, the show has attracted advertisers like Walmart, T-Mobile and Samsung Mobile, but Lovinger hopes Sunday's ratings will attract attention from a variety of categories. "Once we start seeing the true demos and the way the show grew, I think we're going to have an opportunity to take specific ideas to different types of advertisers," he said. "Clearly, Sunday night is a great night for family-friendly advertisers, and so we'll continue to look for partnerships there. But the tone of the comedy fits a lot of people, whether it's a big-box retailer like a Walmart or even an electronic manufacturer that might want to do fun things with the clips in short form. So we're just getting started but couldn't be more excited."

However, because production has already wrapped for Season 1, Lovinger will have to wait until next season to set up more substantial partnerships or integrations.

Even though integrations are off the table for now, "we're going to find a lot of angles in with a lot of different types of advertisers, because the show is going to be very broad in terms of the demos," Lovinger said. "It's a really fun, wholesome way to spend time with your family on a Sunday night. And for an advertiser to be a part of that, it's a pretty rare environment nowadays. Advertisers do seek big, big audiences that happen to be safe for their brands, and this is nirvana when it comes to that."

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