Muted NBC Bows Win Thursday

Sep 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

NBC debuted its much-anticipated “Friends” spinoff “Joey” and the second season of the 2003-04 surprise hit “The Apprentice” last Thursday, winning the night among the adults 18 to 49 ratings demographic. But with strong competition from an NFL game on ABC, NBC’s glory was somewhat muted. Not as muted, however, as it might be next week when CBS rolls out its 8 p.m. competition, the latest season of reality hit “Survivor.”

“Joey” garnered a 7.5 rating and 23 share among adults 18 to 49 and 18.55 million total viewers in its debut run, according to Nielsen Media Research. The 82-minute premiere of “The Apprentice,” starting at 9 p.m., brought in a 6.6 rating and 17 share in the adults 18 to 49 demo and 14.05 million viewers. “Medical Investigation,” which had a special premiere in the “ER” time slot before premiering Friday night at 10 p.m., came in at a 4.5/12 among adults 18 to 49 (11.78 million viewers).

NBC’s lineup won the network the night with a 6.1 rating in adults 18 to 49, beating out ABC’s 5.8 rating for the NFL season opener. In third place for the night was CBS, with an adults 18 to 49 average of 3.8 for an episode of “Big Brother 5” and “CSI” and “Without a Trace” repeats.

Looking at year-ago numbers, NBC’s story is less impressive. “Joey’s” premiere was 24 percent below last season’s “Friends” premiere, which brought in 24.54 million viewers in the same time period, Thursday at 8 p.m. Compared with its own January premiere on Jan. 8 at 8:37 p.m., which brought in 18.49 million viewers, “The Apprentice’s” 2004-05 launch was down 24 percent. “Medical Investigation” fared even worse, down 49 percent from “ER’s” 2003 season opener of 23.22 million viewers.

Tom Bierbaum, NBC’s VP, ratings and program information, said last Thursday’s launch of “Joey” was “about what we projected” and that “The Apprentice’s” numbers could grow with more awareness that it is back for another season.

“We got our shows off to solid starts,” he said. `”The Apprentice’ will be in a position to build from here. My suspicion is there are “Apprentice” viewers who missed our opening week. I think we’re at some very solid numbers. If `Joey’ remains in this neighborhood, we’ll have a very strong Thursday this year.”

As for “Medical Investigation,” Mr. Bierbaum said beating “ER’s” last season numbers was never part of the network equation.

More Eyeballs

The strategy is to get a lot of sampling of the show,” he said. “This will give the show a lot more eyeballs than if we had just launched on Friday.”

But NBC didn’t have to contend with CBS’s premiering fall lineup, which is scheduled to begin next week with “Survivor: Vanuatu” at 8 p.m. (ET). A week later, on Sept. 23, CBS is scheduled to launch the season premieres of “CSI” and “Trace.”

“They will be much more formidable with their first-run lineup,” Mr. Bierbaum said of CBS.

NBC also saw dropoffs in the second-week performance of two of its new shows. Animated comedy “Father of the Pride” got a 4.3/11 in adults 18 to 49 in its 9 p.m. (ET) time slot last Tuesday, down 20 percent from the 5.4/15 turned in Tuesday, Aug. 31. Drama “Hawaii” got a 2.4/8 in adults 18 to 49 at 8 p.m. (ET) last Wednesday, down 27 percent from its Sept. 1 premiere, which garnered a 3.3/11 in the demo.

“The `Father of the Pride’ dropoff is absolutely in line with our expectations and right on course,” Mr. Bierbaum said. “`Hawaii’ has dipped below what we would like it to see.”

“Pride” did compete well against the premiere of Fox’s “The Next Great Champ” last week, clobbering the reality boxing show 4.3/11 to 2.2/6 in the adults 18 to 49 demo.