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For the first time in more than a decade, NBC has made a convincing argument that there is life after "Sunday Night Football."
After years of struggling to develop a midseason hit on the most cluttered night of the TV week, NBC last night put up huge numbers with the time-slot premiere of its tyro talent show "Little Big Shots." According to preliminary Nielsen data, the one-hour show out-delivered all comers at 8 p.m., drawing 14.8 million total viewers and a 2.8 rating in the target demo, which works out to around 3.55 million adults 18-49.
"Little Big Shots" saw significant growth in the half-hours, improving to a 3.1 in the demo from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. after posting a 2.6 in its opening frame. Moreover, the show also posted broadcast's highest rating on the night among the 25-54 set, averaging a 3.9 in the demo, which translates to around 4.63 million viewers.
The 14.8 million viewers who tuned in marked NBC's most-watched regularly-scheduled Sunday night entertainment broadcast since March 13, 2005, when an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" scared up 15.7 million viewers.
Hosted by the ubiquitous Steve Harvey, "Little Big Shots" unofficially bowed last Tuesday to 12.8 million viewers and a 2.9 rating. As is the case with its freshman comedies "Superstore" and "Telenovela," NBC previewed "Little Big Shots" in the lead-out of its highest-rated non-football program, "The Voice." The Peacock likewise will launch its new medical drama "Heartbeat" (formerly known as "Heartbreaker") out of "The Voice" on Tuesday, March 22, before the show moves to its regular Wednesday 8 p.m. slot the following night, and a similar strategy is in the works for "Crowded," its final comedy release of 2015-16.
Leading out of "Little Big Shots" at 9 p.m., the second-year comedy "The Carmichael Show" posted a series-high 1.5 in the dollar demo before slipping to a 1.1 in the subsequent half-hour.
All told, NBC's ratings were up 82% versus the year-ago Sunday and improved 24% when compared with last week's results. The competition didn't fare nearly as well, as Fox's "Animation Domination" lineup was down 19% versus the year-ago period, CBS's "CSI: Cyber" limped off the schedule with a 1.4 rating in the network's key demo (adults 25-54) and ABC's "Once Upon a Time" (1.3), "The Family" (0.8) and "Quantico" (1.1) matched last week's uninspired deliveries in the 18-49 demo.
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In recent years, NBC's post-NFL Sunday strategy involved slotting expensive, forgettable dramas ("Believe," "Crisis," "American Odyssey") in the 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. slots, where they would invariably collapse under the weight of Peak TV. (Among the prestige Sunday night shows that air after football lets out are AMC's "The Walking Dead," HBO's "Game of Thrones," CBS's "The Good Wife" and Showtime's "Billions.") Given so many viable alternatives, viewers didn't bite; "Believe" and "Crisis" each eked out a 1.0 in the dollar demo, while "American Odyssey" managed a dreadful 0.5 rating over the course of its 13-episode run.
While "Little Big Shots" only accounts for a quarter of NBC's four-hour Sunday night roster, it's something to build on. And if the show can maintain its ratings momentum, NBC's post-football Sundays have a real shot at evolving from an afterthought to a destination.
"Little Big Shots" is executive produced by Steve Harvey and Ellen DeGeneres. NBC has ordered eight episodes of the kids' variety show, which is likely to be featured prominently during the network's May 16 upfront presentation.