Smash Shifts to Saturdays

NBC to burn off remaining episodes of faltering Broadway drama

In a prelude to the show’s inevitable cancelation, NBC will shift the mortally wounded Smash to Saturdays beginning April 6.

While the move to the night with the lowest HUT levels constitutes a burnoff, NBC has said it intends to air all 12 episodes remaining in Smash’s Season 2 order.

The decision to maroon Smash in the Saturday 9 p.m. slot comes as the Broadway musical drama failed to deliver so much as a 1.0 in the 18-49 demo for the fourth consecutive week. Last night, Smash averaged 2.9 million viewers and a 0.9 in the dollar demo, bringing its average deliveries for the season to 3.28 million viewers and a 0.9.

It’s an ignominious end for Smash, which was one of the most anticipated new series of 2011-12. The show premiered Feb. 6, 2012, to 11.4 million total viewers and a 3.8 rating, only to go on to lose more than half of its audience. By the time Season 1 wrapped on May 14, Smash had fallen to 5.96 million viewers and a 1.8 in the demo.

Year-over-year comparisons were further muddied by a much weaker set of lead-ins. Whereas last year’s opener was the beneficiary of The Voice’s audience of 17.8 million viewers/6.7 rating in the dollar demo, Season 2 of Smash was launched out of Betty White’s Second Annual 90th Birthday Special. The one-hour curiosity drew 5.95 million viewers and a 1.4 in the demo on Feb. 5.

In subsequent weeks, Smash followed the anemic one-two combo of NBC’s freshman comedies Go On and The New Normal. In the three weeks that Smash led out of new installments of the sitcoms, Go On averaged a 1.1 in the demo, while New Normal drew a 0.9.

The network is vacating its current Tuesday night lineup to make room for the upcoming romantic-competition series, Ready for Love. Executive produced by Eva Longoria, Love bows March 26 after the first new one-hour installment of The Voice.

Ready for Love was originally slated to premiere on March 21 and air from 8-10 p.m. on Sundays, leading into The Celebrity Apprentice. Instead, NBC will air encore presentations of The Voice in that time slot.

The New Normal will end its run on April 2 in a special one-hour installment after The Voice. Go On will move to the Thursday 9:30 p.m. slot for two weeks, with plans to air the season finale on April 11. The double-shift leaves Fox as the sole network to have survived the Tuesday 9-10 p.m. comedy roadblock, which saw ABC pit its Happy Endings against Go On and Fox’s New Girl, followed by the now-canceled Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt. 23 going head-to-head with The New Normal and The Mindy Project.

Last spring, as the networks unveiled their 2012-13 prime-time schedules, media buyers suggested that cramming six comedies into a single hour was likely to have unintended consequences. “It’s always nice to have options, but we’re going to see a lot of cannibalization in that hour,” said Sam Armando, svp, director of strategic intelligence at Starcom MediaVest Group Exchange, who added, “Fox may have an advantage because of New Girl.”

Fox last week passed NBC to take second in the seasonal ratings race. Through the first 24 weeks of the campaign, CBS remains at the top of the leader board with an average 3.1 rating among adults 18-49. Fox is now up on NBC by one-tenth of a point (2.6 vs. 2.5), while ABC is stuck in fourth place with a 2.3.

While it’s too late in the season for NBC to make up much ground, the return of The Voice and Revolution (March 25) should spur at least a self-contained rally on Monday nights. Cycle 3 of the singing competition series averaged 12.2 million viewers and a 4.3 in the demo, while the dystopian drama Revolution scared up 8.38 million viewers and a 3.1 rating over its first 10 episodes.

NBC will premiere its final new effort of the season on Thursday, April 4, when it takes the wraps off its thriller/procedural Hannibal. The adaptation of the Hannibal Lecter story will compete with two of broadcast's last big draws at 10 p.m.—ABC’s sudsy Beltway drama Scandal and CBS’s freshman hit Elementary.