TV Season Off to Inauspicious Start as Veteran Series Stumble

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'Kevin Can Wait'
'Kevin Can Wait' Credit: Dave Giesbrecht/CBS

TV's most popular comedy got off to its slowest start in four years, as "The Big Bang Theory" on Monday night opened its tenth season on CBS with a not-insignificant ratings decline compared to its year-ago premiere.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the season opener of CBS's "Big Bang" averaged 15.8 million viewers and a 5.4 rating in the target demographic, which translates to 6.49 million adults age 25-to-54. That marks a 17% decline compared to last season's premiere, which averaged a 6.5 rating in the demo.

"Big Bang" also delivered a 3.8 rating in the adults 18-to-49 demographic, down 19% compared to the year-ago's 4.7 rating.

Despite the year-over-year drop, "Big Bang" was easily the most-watched, highest-rated show on TV last night, which marked the official jumping-off point of the 2016-17 season. The Chuck Lorre warhorse served as a sturdy mount for the new Kevin James sitcom "Kevin Can Wait," which bowed in the 8:30 p.m. lead-out slot to 11.1 million viewers and a 3.7 rating among adults 25-to-54.

"Kevin Can Wait" retained 69% of its lead-in and very nearly matched last fall's premiere of "Life in Pieces," which in its first outing delivered 11.3 million viewers and a 3.8 rating. Unlike "Life in Pieces," which along with "Big Bang" migrated to CBS's Thursday night lineup after five episodes, "Kevin Can Wait" will be charged with anchoring the Monday roster. Starting Oct. 24, the Kevin James vehicle will inhabit the 8 p.m. slot, where it will lead into the new Matt LeBlanc project "Man with a Plan."

Elsewhere on the broadcast dial, NBC's "The Voice" clocked in for its eleventh cycle in front of a national audience of 12.1 million viewers and a 3.3 among adults age 18-to-49, which marked a 6% dip in the demo versus cycle nine's 3.5 rating, and just a 3% decline compared to the spring opener. At 10 p.m., back-to-back episodes of the new Ted Danson-Kristen Bell comedy "The Good Place" earned strong sampling, drawing 8.04 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in the demographic. The demo results matched those scared up by the 2014 premiere of "Marry Me" and the previous season's debut of "About a Boy."

"The Good Place" on Thursday moves into its 8:30 p.m. slot, where it will lead out of NBC's sophomore comedy "Superstore." Beginning Oct. 27, the Mike Schur sitcom will go heads-to-head with CBS's millennials comedy "The Great Indoors," which stars Joel McHale.

ABC trotted out its indefatigable franchise "Dancing with the Stars" for its twenty-third spin around the parquet, and in so doing delivered 10.7 million viewers and a 1.7 rating among the 18-to-49 set. That marked a 19% drop versus last fall's 2.3 rating. One of broadcast's oldest-skewing shows, only 20% of the "DWTS" premiere audience was 50 years of age or younger.

After a rough summer, Fox got its new season off to a shaky start, as "Gotham" and "Lucifer" both drew a 1.3 in the 18-to-49 demo. "Gotham" fell 19% versus its year-ago 1.6 rating. "Lucifer" was up 18% compared to former time slot occupant "Minority Report," but its Monday night rating was down 46% versus the 2.4 it hung up in its Jan. 25 series premiere. ("Lucifer" for five weeks last season had the advantage of leading out of Fox's high-rated "X Files" reboot.)

On the cable front, ESPN won the night as the "Monday Night Football" Bears-Eagles blunderfest drew 12.1 million viewers and a 5.1 rating among adults 25-54, down just 4% compared to the analogous Jets-Colts game in 2015. That marks the lowest year-over-year decline for a primetime NFL broadcast since the season began.

Speaking of the NFL, with an average draw of 22.8 million viewers and a 12.7 household rating, NBC's latest installment of "Sunday Night Football" (Packers-Vikings) skidded 16% versus last season's high-flying Seahawks-Packers broadcast. The late national window on CBS, which featured the Colts and Broncos in 74% of the nation's TV markets, also took a big hit, drawing 21.4 million viewers and a 12.2 household rating, down 21% versus Fox's year-ago Cowboys-Eagles showdown. When held up against CBS's first national window of 2015 (Ravens-Broncos in 80% of all markets), the Packers-Vikings game delivered more palatable 10% decline.

Fox's early (1 p.m. EST) window, which included an NFC battle between Dallas and Washington and the L.A. Rams' surprise win over Seattle, averaged 19.2 million viewers and an 11.0 household rating, up 15% from year-ago coverage on CBS, but flat compared to Fox's own single-header window in 2014. Through the first two weeks of the season, Fox is the only network to post ratings gains in all NFL windows.

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