The launch of NBC's first comedy-free Thursday night since the 1980-81 broadcast season was a bit of a toss-up, as a transplanted "The Blacklist" spiffed up the joint while newcomer "Allegiance" was roundly ignored.
According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the Thursday night premiere of "The Blacklist" averaged nearly 10.1 million viewers and a 2.4 in the coveted adults 18-49 demo, and while that marked a 4% decline from the show's final Monday night appearance back on Nov. 10, it was also a huge improvement when compared to the previous time slot occupants. The canceled freshman sitcoms "Bad Judge" and "A to Z" combined to average an anemic 0.9 rating in the dollar demo, making the pair NBC's worst-performing 9 p.m. comedies since last previous season's disastrous battery of "Sean Saves the World" and "The Michael J. Fox Show" (1.1).
All told, the heart of NBC's new no-chuckle Thursday lineup fared about as well as can be expected -- and it didn't disappoint advertisers. If sustainable over time, last night's 167% jump in targeted viewers represents a massive turnaround for a prime time block that has been a virtual ghost town since "ER" flatlined back in 2009.
Perhaps more importantly, time in "The Blacklist" is being offered at a discount to the unit prices it commanded in its former time slot. Per Ad Age's annual pricing survey, the average going rate for a 30-second spot in the eight Monday night episodes of "The Blacklist" was $282,975 a pop, making it the priciest drama on broadcast TV. Media buyers who have invested in the Thursday night edition said they're paying a more budget-minded rate -- a little more than $200,000 per :30.
If "The Blacklist" gives NBC something to hang its fedora on in the middle of the most important night for movie dollars, "Allegiance" was a reminder that the 10 p.m. Thursday slot remains a no-man's land. Viewers said nyet to the premiere of the Russian spy drama, which scratched out a mere 1.1 in the demo, squandering 52% of its "Blacklist" lead-in while earning the dubious distinction of becoming the season's lowest-rated drama debut.
"Allegiance" was preceded in the time slot by the sixth and final season of "Parenthood," which averaged a 1.3 in the demo over the course of its final 13 episodes. Per TV buyers, units in "Allegiance" were pricing at around $125,000 per :30 in the upfront.
At least one previous 10 p.m. drama launch fared much worse than "Allegiance." Two years ago, NBC took the wraps off "Do No Harm," a gloss on Jekyll and Hyde that bowed to a 0.9 in the demo before being canceled the following week.
Next week, NBC kicks off the eight-episode miniseries, "The Slap," which leads into "The Blacklist" at 8 p.m. All things being equal, the two freshman bookends may not have to survive into next fall for NBC's new Thursday night lineup to be considered a success -- provided "The Blacklist" can hover around a 2.0. Season-to-date, the former home of "Must See TV" is averaging just a 1.1 in the demo; an improvement of even one-half a ratings point will justify scuttling the network's long comedic tradition.