Three new broadcast network shows that most media agencies and TV critics did not expect to last very long produced solid ratings last week, proving that audience viewing patterns are unpredictable.
While one or two weeks' worth of ratings success does not mean the audience will continue to watch the entire season, the advertisers who invested in NBC's Heroes, ABC's Ugly Betty and CBS' Jericho have reason to smile, at least for now.
Heroes premiered Sept. 25 at 9 p.m., winning not only its time period but the entire night among adults 18-49 with a 5.9 rating, growing by 1.1 million viewers from its lead-in, NBC game show Deal or No Deal.
Ugly Betty kicked off Thursday, Sept. 28, for ABC at 8 p.m. and drew a 5.0 18-49 rating and an average 16.3 million viewers. More impressively, it gained an impressive 3.3 million viewers in its second half-hour, which is a trait of successful hour-long dramas. Betty improved the time slot in the 18-49 demo for ABC by 75 percent compared to last season.
Jericho, meanwhile, earned a 3.6/11 in adults 18-49, rising 6 percent over its premiere-week rating, and producing CBS' best 18-49 rating in the Wednesday 8 p.m. time period since March 2003. Promisingly, Jericho also gained about 800,000 viewers in its second half-hour.
Despite those successes, however, there were also some failures, most notably the continued decline of the heavily hyped NBC freshman drama Kidnapped, which finished last in its 10 p.m. Wednesday time period, with a 2.2 18-49 rating, down 21 percent from its premiere week. The show also lost 1.2 million viewers from its first week.
Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal, told Adweek sister magazine Mediaweek that while network officials believe the production quality of Kidnapped is "terrific," he acknowledged that they are "disappointed" with its performance so far. He said plans are to keep the show in its current time period for the near future.
As for Heroes' big-time performance, Zucker said the results are "in line with what our internal research predicted."
Moreover, Zucker noted the network is "very pleased" with Heroes lead-out show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, even though its 18-49 rating dipped 16 percent to a 4.2 and lost 2.6 million viewers from week one to week two. "It's right where we thought it would be," he said of Studio 60.
ABC's hit drama Grey's Anatomy, leading out of Betty, earned an 9.5 18-49 rating, down 14 percent from its debut two weeks ago but significantly better in its time period than CBS' CSI, which recorded a 8.0 (and is still up 3 percent). In the battle of two drama giants, Grey's dipped 2 million viewers from last week to 23.4 million, while CSI gained 1.2 million to 23.7 million.
At the CW network, America's Next Top Model, which moved over from the defunct UPN and premiered to its highest numbers ever two weeks ago, maintained its ratings in week two. However, all the other former WB or UPN shows premiered at lower ratings than last season. Some buyers expressed concern over the slow start. "You would expect that if they took the best of the best from each network and put those shows on CW, and with one less network [to compete against], those ratings would be up," said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at Mediaedge:cia. "While it's still early, the CW needs to start showing some growth."
Despite all the dissecting, viewership of broadcast prime time through the first two weeks is flat to up, and that is good news for advertisers. "There's been almost no audience erosion this season so far," said Andy Donchin, evp, director of broadcast at Carat. "Broadcast television still works."