ABC’s new night of “all-Shonda Rhimes” programming was the ratings story Thursday night, even as CBS, with “Thursday Night Football” in its pocket, had little trouble winning the prime-time demo ratings battle among the broadcast networks.
The big headline appeared to be the strong opening for ABC’s new Viola Davis legal drama “How to Get Away With Murder.” Based on Nielsen overnights for the key 18-49 demo, TVbytheNumbers.com reports that the “Murder” premiere tied its lead-in, ABC’s “Scandal,” for highest-rated entertainment program of the night on broadcast, with both shows averaging 3.8 ratings in the demo.
By comparison, CBS’s NFL telecast, which featured a 45-14 blowout by the New York Giants over the Washington Redskins, fared only a little better with a 4.5 average. And in total viewers, ABC came out slightly ahead of CBS’s night of football, averaging 11.900 million total viewers for prime time to 11.895 million for CBS.
The report notes that the CBS numbers may face greater adjustments than usual due to the nature of live programming.
Kicking off ABC’s prime time was the season 11 premiere of workhorse “Grey’s Anatomy,” which pulled a 3.0 average in 18-49 to help put the Alphabet Network solidly ahead of its non-football broadcast competition for the night. CBS wound up with a 4.2 average in the demo for prime time, followed by ABC with a 3.5. The closest broadcast competitor, NBC, could muster only a 1.3.
Rhimes is an executive producer on “How to Get Away With Murder,” and is the creator and showrunner on “Grey’s Anatomy,” along with being the creator of “Scandal,” which had its fourth-season debut.
With its 4.5 preliminary demo number, CBS’s NFL game was up significantly from the 3.3 for last week’s game. ABC, meanwhile, was mixed: “Grey’s” was down four-tenths from the two-hour premiere the show aired a year ago, which delivered a 3.4, while “Scandal’s” 3.8 marked a series best, and an improvement from the show’s 3.6 for its year-ago season premiere.
NBC couldn’t quite stack up against the competition, with its two-hour “Biggest Loser” equaling last week’s series low in adults 18-49 with a 1.3 average, while the final-season premiere of “Parenthood” at 10 p.m. settled for a 1.4, well below half of the 3.8 turned in by its new time-slot rival “How to Get Away With Murder” and off two-tenths from “Parenthood’s” previous season premiere. Looking at total viewers for the two 10 p.m. dramas, ABC’s “Murder” delivered 14.0 million to 4.30 million for NBC’s “Parenthood.”
Fox put up the season premiere of “Bones” at 8 p.m. and managed a 1.6 average in 18-49 against stiff competition from football, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Biggest Loser,” but the number was well off the pace of the show’s 2.3 average for its season premiere a year ago. A “Sleepy Hollow” repeat at 9 p.m. (0.7 average) didn’t help matters for Fox, which wound up in fifth place overall behind Univision.
For prime time overall, CBS led the way in the 18-49 demo with a 4.2 average, followed by ABC (3.5 average), NBC (1.3), Univision (1.2), Fox (1.1) and CW (0.2). ABC slipped ahead in total viewers with its 11.900 million average, topping CBS (11.895 million), NBC (4.399 million), Fox (4.342 million), Univision (3.109 million) and CW (604,000).