Buoyed by ‘The Voice,’ ‘Smash’ Inches Closer to a Renewal

Monday night is music to NBC’s ears

A stellar performance from The Voice and an all-but-idle CBS helped give NBC a decisive ratings victory on Monday night.

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, The Voice’s first “battle round” delivered 16.9 million viewers and a 6.2 rating in the 18-to-49 demo, which marked the third biggest draw in the series’ history. The post-Super Bowl season premiere scared up a whopping 37.6 million viewers and a 16.3 rating in the demo, while the Feb. 6 follow-up episode delivered 17.8 million viewers and a 6.7 rating.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of The Voice’s performance can be found in the half-hour numbers. After notching a 5.5 in the demo from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., The Voice jumped 18 percent, closing out with a 6.5 rating.

The Voice saw a concomitant gain in total viewers, growing 9 percent from the opening credits to the curtain (15.8 million viewers to 17.2 million viewers).

In some respects, The Voice was helped along by CBS’ all-repeat comedy lineup. A previously aired installment of How I Met Your Mother served up a mere 6.14 million viewers and a 2.0 rating, while 2 Broke Girls averaged 7 million and 2.1. By way of comparison, first-run episodes of 2 Broke Girls draw around 11 million viewers and a 4.2 in the demo, making it the biggest new hit of 2011-12.

Ratings for repeats of Two and a Half Men and Mike & Molly were similarly muted in the 9 p.m.-to-10 p.m. slot.

ABC and Fox didn’t pose much of a threat, either, as The Bachelor averaged just 8.19 million viewers and a 2.5 rating, and a sinking Alcatraz delivered 5.65 million and a 1.9 rating.

The Voice’s strong showing gave NBC’s Broadway drama Smash a much-needed shot in the arm. The sudsy musical put up its biggest ratings in three weeks, averaging 7.76 million viewers and a 2.7 in the demo, a 17 percent improvement over last week’s numbers.

Like The Voice, Smash wasn’t exactly facing the A list. A repeat of CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 averaged 6.67 million viewers and a 1.5 in the demo, while a previously aired episode of ABC’s Castle drew 6.63 million and a 1.4.

Lackluster competition or not, Smash’s ratings are bringing it that much closer to a renewal. While certainly not the blockbuster NBC was hoping for, Smash is demonstrably the peacock’s strongest new show. With two dead dramas on its hands (The Playboy Club and Prime Suspect), plus a long-goodbye burnoff in The Firm, Smash is the only one-hour show that is meeting its ratings guarantees. (The jury’s still out on Awake, which bowed March 1 to a disappointing 6.24 million viewers and a 2.0 rating.)

Among NBC’s veteran dramas, only Law & Order: SVU and Parenthood are a lock for a 2012-13 renewal. Meanwhile, sophomore strip Harry’s Law is almost certain to be canceled.

Of the 11 drama pilots ordered by NBC, at least one is guaranteed a spot on the fall schedule. Based on the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon, Hannibal was given a 13-episode series order in February. Other projects vying for a spot on NBC’s prime-time lineup include the Eric Kripke (Supernatural)-J.J. Abrams thriller Revolution and the Dick Wolf pilot Chicago Fire.

NBC won the night with a 4.5 rating, easily outpacing ABC (2.0), CBS (2.0) and Fox (1.9). Through the first 24 weeks of the 2011-12 season, Fox is tops in the demo with a 3.3 rating, followed by CBS (3.1), NBC (2.7), ABC (2.5), Univision (1.5) and The CW (0.8).