NBC Shines in First Day of Fall TV Season

The Voice, Blacklist bulldoze through Monday night ratings

The echo of the starter’s gun is still reverberating in the runners’ eardrums, and already the 2013-14 network ratings race promises to be a stunner.

NBC played the spoiler on the first night of the new broadcast TV season, as The Voice returned with a flourish, providing a strong lead-in for the new James Spader drama The Blacklist. Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Cycle 5 of The Voice bowed to 15.0 million viewers and a 5.1 in the 18-49 demo, marking a 21 percent increase versus last fall’s premiere (4.2).

The return of the original Voice crew helped NBC run the table in the demos, beating all comers from 8 pm-10 pm with a 6.2 rating among women 18-49, a 3.6 with men 18-49 and a 6.1 among the 25-54 crowd.

If the stellar start for The Voice came as a pleasant surprise at 30 Rock, the performance of The Blacklist was downright staggering. The Spader procedural scared up 12.6 million viewers and a 3.8 in the dollar demo, topping Revolution’s year-ago deliveries (11.7 million viewers), while lagging slightly in the demo.

Significantly, The Blacklist made short work of CBS’ freshman thriller Hostages. The Dylan McDermott-Toni Collette drama averaged just 7.41 million viewers and a 1.8 in the demo, making it CBS’ lowest-rated 10 p.m. premiere since last season’s Golden Boy (10.6 million, 1.8).

Hostages delivered a disappointing 2.5 rating in the guaranteed adults 25-54 demo, and while CBS projects that the DVR will help give the show a boost—three days of playback could provide as much as a 33 percent lift—the preliminary numbers do not portend a long, happy life for the serialized drama.

It’s worth noting that neither show did a particularly good job of holding on to its respective audience. After posting a 4.1 in the demo from 10-10:30 pm, The Blacklist fell 15 percent to a 3.5. Hostages also drooped in the second half-hour, losing 12 percent of its target demo (2.3, down from a 2.6) and 15 percent of the 18-49 cohort (1.7, from a 2.0).

Earlier in the evening, Fox’s Sleepy Hollow returned to a very strong 8.59 million viewers and a 3.1 in the demo, which translates to an 89 percent retention rate when compared to the premiere’s 3.5 rating. Despite going up against much stiffer competition in The Voice, Dancing with the Stars and 2 Broke Girls/Mom, Sleepy held its own, making it a safe bet for an early renewal.

Sleepy also retained 100 percent of its demo from one half-hour to the next.

Speaking of Mom, Chuck Lorre’s latest CBS sitcom didn’t quite meet early expectations. Leading out of 2 Broke Girls, the Anna Faris comedy drew 7.99 million viewers, a 3.2 in the 25-54 demo and a 2.5 with the 18-49 set. Mom had the unfortunate distinction of bowing when The Voice was at its apex; from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., NBC’s flagship show averaged 15.8 million viewers and a 5.5 in the 18-49 demo.

Mom was down 19 percent versus the year-ago Mike & Molly premiere (3.1).

Returning CBS comedy How I Met Your Mother prepared for its final lap by delivering 9.40 million viewers and a 3.7 rating, up one-tenth of a point from the Season 8 premiere. Meanwhile, 2 Broke Girls dropped 24 percent in the demo (2.8, down from last season’s 3.7).

ABC’s veteran series were a mixed bag, as Dancing with the Stars plummeted 26 percent to a 2.3 rating, while Castle returned to a 2.2, up 5 percent versus last season’s opener. 

For all the handwringing over the death of broadcast television, Night 1 of the 2013-14 campaign drew 46.8 million viewers across the six broadcast nets, up 4.1 million, or 10 percent, versus the year-ago 42.7 million. The average 18-49 rating also improved 10 percent.