‘Glee Project’ Improves on TV’s Toughest Night

Oxygen talks up audience reach after small ratings gains

After a disastrous premiere in which deliveries fell well short of early expectations, ratings for the second installment of Oxygen’s The Glee Project showed signs of improvement Sunday night. But the numbers must continue to grow in the coming weeks if Oxygen is to reap the benefits of the brand association.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, the sophomore episode of The Glee Project served up 527,000 total viewers in the 9-10 p.m. time slot, up 16 percent from the 465,000 who tuned in for the June 12 premiere. While the percentage increase was encouraging, it represents a net gain of only 62,000 viewers.

As one might expect, the second episode boasted a concomitant gain among the target demo. Sunday night’s show averaged 183,000 women 18-49, up 27 percent from 144,000 in the premiere. That said, the concentration of valued viewers was similar to that of a week ago, as 35 percent of the audience was a member of the W18-49 set—up a few ticks from 32 percent on June 12.

Oxygen on Tuesday effectively brushed aside concerns about Glee Project, electing instead to crow about the show’s cumulative reach. In a release, the network boasted that the show delivered 4.5 million viewers in its first week, an aggregate that includes data culled from video-on-demand, Hulu.com, and Oxygen.com.

Last week, Oxygen aired the first installment of Glee Project 23 times. It also ran an introductory casting special eight times. Sibling net Bravo also got into the act, drawing 335,000 viewers Saturday at 6 p.m. and another 316,000 earlier that same morning.

In that same communication, Oxygen Media president Jason Klarman gave the show his full endorsement. “Millions of viewers are discovering and devouring this show on every platform they can,” Klarman said, adding that the series’  “incredible talent and heart…make it a truly original original.”

As was the case a week ago, Glee Project struggled to find its footing in what has become a ferociously competitive time slot. No fewer than 30 cable programs eclipsed Oxygen’s deliveries from 9-10 p.m., a roster that includes a number of shows on competitor networks such as E!, TLC, and Lifetime.

The season-three premiere of Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva drew 2.86 million viewers opposite Glee Project, while the one-two punch of Ice Loves Coco and a repeat of Keeping Up With the Kardashians averaged 778,000 viewers on E!.

Meanwhile, TLC’s one-off special, William & Kate: Royal Baby Watch? scared up 948,000 viewers in the 9 p.m. slot.

The Glee Project faces a steep uphill climb if it is to get within shooting distance of the 1 million-viewer mark. On Sunday night, TNT bowed the sci-fi drama Falling Skies to 5.91 million viewers, making it the most-watched cable debut of 2011. USA Network’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent delivered 3.27 million viewers, while such diverse offerings as Lifetime’s Diva and Food Network’s The Next Food Network Star regularly pull in north of 2.6 million viewers.

Other entries that outdelivered Glee Project include a repeat of Criminal Minds on A&E (1.86 million viewers); twin episodes of The George Lopez Show on Nick at Nite (1.83 million); and the 2000 Sandra Bullock theatrical, Miss Congeniality, which drew 1.58 million viewers from 9-11 p.m. on TBS.

In a particularly telling stat, even VH1’s unscripted Audrina Partridge flop managed to outshine Glee Project, drawing 536,000 viewers in its series finale.

Of the few shows that Oxygen bested on Sunday night, two were tentpoles meant to prop up a pair of rival networks. WE tv’s Bridezillas drew just 481,000 viewers opposite Glee Project, as did the Sarah Ferguson docu-series Finding Sarah, on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network.

Oxygen executives anticipate ratings for Glee Project will improve markedly upon application of live-plus-same-day data, which adds a week of DVR playback to the original deliveries. Competition series are often time-shifted; in 2010, Lifetime’s Project Runway saw its 18-49 ratings double when DVR viewership was blended in with the L7 data.

Also worth noting: Competition series often gain momentum over the course of a season.