ABC's 'Rising Star' Gets Lackluster Start

But App Lives Up To The Task

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Contestant Summer Collins struggles to collects votes.
Contestant Summer Collins struggles to collects votes. Credit: ABC

"Rising Star" brought in just about 5 million viewers for ABC when it bowed on Sunday night.

It's a lackluster start for the much-hyped singing competition series, which allows viewers to vote via an app in real time. During the same time period, NBC's "America's Got Talent" was watched by about 8 million viewers.

And in the all-important 18-to-49 demographic, "Rising Star's" preliminary 1.5 rating fell below the network's most recent attempt at a music competition series, "Duets," which did not get a second season. A single ratings point represents 1% of the total number of TV households.

These are Fast National Ratings, which does not account for scheduling differences in time-zones. While 80% of the country was able to watch "Rising Star" live, on the West Coast the show aired on delay at 9 p.m. PT. ABC has special-ordered Nielsen's True Fast National Ratings, which will include later viewing on the West Coast. Those ratings will be available later in the day.

(Update: "Rising Star" averaged 5.1 million, ABC said later in the day, citing the True Fast National Ratings. Ratings among 18-to-49-year-old viewers remained unchanged, with a 1.5. About 4.6 million votes were cast live through the app, according to the network.)

The success of "Rising Star" relies predominantly on the companion app, where viewers can vote "yes" or "no" for contestants, who start out by performing behind a screen. As viewers vote, their pictures may appear on the screen. If more than 70% of people who are signed in to the app vote "yes," the screen lifts and contestants advance to the next round.

The app worked flawlessly, with no major crashes or glitches.

Host Josh Groban announced during the show that the "Rising Star" app had hit the 1 million-download mark.

But the network did boast about its social engagement. "Rising Star" was the most social series on Sunday night, with 129,071 tweets, according to Nielsen and Twitter. "America's Got Talent," by comparison, had 33,106 tweets.

Despite the app's ease of use, some viewers on Twitter expressed some dissatisfaction with the the show. The biggest complaint was pacing and commercial load. In the two-hour premiere, just 10 contestants auditioned, which left lots of down time when it came to viewers interacting with the app. Each audition was preceded by a back story about the upcoming singer, and each performance was followed by a commercial break.

While viewers weren't voting, the app displayed messages like: "Don't go buy milk! More 'Rising Star' is moments away!"

There were also perhaps some questions about viewers' motivations for voting -- whether some people voted "yes" to a contestant early, for example, just to see their face projected onto the curtain. Out of the 10 acts that performed last night, just 4 were rejected.

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