NBC’s dogged promotional push for its new Broadway drama, Smash, appears to have paid off, as Monday night’s premiere delivered the season’s highest ratings in the 10 p.m. slot.
According to Nielsen preliminary data, Smash served up 11.5 million total viewers and a 3.8 rating in the coveted adults 18-49 demo, easily outpacing CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 (2.7) and ABC’s Castle (2.0).
The premiere marks the first time during the 2011-12 broadcast season that a new NBC drama has struck a chord with viewers. The much-ballyhooed Playboy Club on Sept. 19 bowed to an anemic 5.03 million viewers and a 1.6 rating, an opening salvo that ensured the series’ swift demise. (NBC mothballed the Bunnies after just three episodes.)
Other duds include: Prime Suspect, which averaged a 1.2 rating over the course of 13 installments; the procedural/fantasy mashup Grimm, which puts up a 1.6 in the wasteland that is Friday night; and The Firm, notching a meager 1.0 rating in the demo over its first five episodes.
Already, Smash has set the bar at 10 p.m. across the entire week, as its 3.8 rating eclipsed previous season highs in the hour set by CBS’ CSI and Hawaii Five-0 (both topped out at 3.4). Moreover, the rating exorcizes the demons that have plagued NBC’s Monday nights, representing a 280 percent improvement over the network’s seasonal average of a 1.0 rating in the Monday 10 p.m. time slot.
While it’s far too early to guess how Smash will hold up in the coming weeks, the early results are promising. For one, it now stands as the season’s No. 2-rated new drama premiere, trailing only Once Upon a Time on ABC (4.0 on Oct. 23). Perhaps more importantly, Smash has the potential to be the first real hit fostered by entertainment president Bob Greenblatt, who smuggled the series into NBC when he arrived from Showtime.
Smash is a passion project for Greenblatt, who signed off on a promotional maelstrom to ensure that the show enjoyed strong sampling in its debut. While estimates of NBC’s measured media spend (much of it outdoor) range from $20 million to $25 million, those figures do not take into account all the complementary exposure afforded Smash by NBC and its cable siblings.
For example, the new 60-second Smash promo that aired during NBC’s presentation of the Super Bowl—featuring Katharine McPhee’s pulse-pounding performance of Ryan Tedder’s “Touch Me,” the spot is far more overtly male-skewing than the earlier “Beautiful” clip—carved out an estimated $7 million in real estate. Given the gender breakdown of Sunday night’s national audience, it’s possible that some 60 million men watched McPhee gyrating in her bedsheet.
Again, there’s no telling how Smash will hold up in the long run, and there was a not-inconsiderable decline between the first and second half hours. Between 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Smash averaged a 4.2 rating in the demo, but that fell nearly 20 percent in the second half (3.4). That said, the show has the advantage of a robust lead-in.
The evening after The Voice bowed in the post-Super Bowl slot to 37.6 million viewers and a 16.3 rating, the competition series returned Monday to an impressive 17.7 million viewers and a 6.6 in the demo, making it NBC’s highest-rated regular season broadcast in nearly five years.
The Voice picked up steam as the night wore on, rising 30 percent from a 5.3 from 8 p.m.-9 p.m. to a 7.3 in the final hour.
All told, the one-two punch of The Voice and Smash led NBC to an easy win, as the Peacock averaged a 5.7 rating to CBS’ 3.5, ABC’s 2.4, Fox’s 2.3 and Univision’s 1.6. The CW closed out the night with a 0.6 among adults 18-49 and a 0.7 rating in its target demo (18-34).
Through the first 20 weeks of the season, Fox remains at the top of the leader board, averaging a 3.3 rating, down 3 percent versus the year-ago period. CBS is second with a 3.1 (up 3 percent), while the Super Bowl pushed NBC into third (2.7, up 5 percent). ABC now stands alone in fourth with a 2.4 (up 1 percent).