NBC scored the big debut last week with the opening of its new Monday night superhero series “Heroes,” giving last season’s No. 4 broadcast network its best drama premiere in five years among adults 18 to 49.
At 9 p.m. (ET) Sept. 25, “Heroes” scored a 5.9 rating in adults 18 to 49, a number that includes live viewing plus same-day viewing via digital video recorders, according to Nielsen Media Research. Aside from propelling NBC to first place among the broadcasters Monday in adults 18 to 49, “Heroes” had the highest-rated premiere for a 9 p.m. network drama since “Desperate Housewives” debuted on ABC in 2004.
The initial success of “Heroes” made it the second-highest-rated debut in a season that so far has attracted more total viewers to all the networks than last year. Last week NBC got a ratings boost from “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” whose 5.0 rating made it the fourth-most-watched premiere last week among the 18- to 49-year old viewers prized by advertisers.
Whether those performances in the second week of the fall season help NBC move up the rankings depends partly on how well the competition performs. Last week, the “Heroes” debut ranked behind ABC’s 10 p.m. Sunday premiere of family drama “Brothers & Sisters.” That program, starring Calista Flockhart and Sally Field, drew a 6.0 rating among adults 18 to 49.
Mindful of the competition, NBC pointed out in a ratings release last week that the “Brothers” debut benefited from a 9.6 ratings lead-in from returning hit “Desperate Housewives,” while “Heroes” built its number off a considerably weaker 3.8 ratings lead-in from game show “Deal or No Deal.”
Among the rest of the premieres, ABC’s “Six Degrees” was No. 3 with a 5.4 rating for its Thursday, Sept. 21, debut. NBC’s Monday, Sept. 18, premiere of “Studio 60” was fourth with a 5.0. Tying “Studio 60” was ABC’s premiere last Thursday of its highly anticipated 8 p.m. drama “Ugly Betty,” which also scored a 5.0 rating in adults 18 to 49. That was ABC’s highest- rated scripted series in the time period since “Matlock” ran at 8 p.m. in 1995.
“Betty’s” audience in adults 18 to 49 grew 33 percent from half-hour to half-hour (4.3 to 5.7), which may encourage ABC executives leery about stacking it against CBS’s “Survivor,” which has won the night its first two outings of the season. Abandoning its racially segregated format earlier than planned in last week’s installment, “Survivor: Cook Islands” won Thursday 8 p.m. among the broadcasters with a 5.9 preliminary national rating.
The early results this season indicate that Thursday nights, when advertisers are keen to influence viewers’ weekend plans, may be a battle between ratings upstart ABC and last fall’s dominant network on the night, CBS.
For the second week in a row, ABC was the top broadcaster Thursday in adults 18 to 49, driven by the No. 1 show for the night-9 p.m. medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” The show’s 9.5 rating represented a 16 percent decline from its 11.0 rating the previous week.
That drop helped Thursday’s No. 2 show, CBS’s “CSI,” close the gap as it gained 4 percent in that demographic, pulling in a 8.0 rating.
At 10 p.m. Thursday, the second episode of new drama “Six Degrees” declined 24 percent from its debut to a 4.1, edging out CBS’s James Woods vehicle, “Shark” (4.2), which grew 2 percent from its premiere the previous week. Time period veteran “ER” on NBC won the hour with a 6.1.