While ABC is still waiting to win its first nightly 2015-16 ratings war, the network on Thursday evening posted its biggest numbers of the new season, as the three-hour Shondaland block returned in all its soapy glory.
According to Nielsen fast national data, ABC's "TGIT" roster started strong with the overachieving "Grey's Anatomy," which delivered 9.45 million viewers and a 2.8 in the adults 18-to-49 demographic. And while that marked a 10% decline from last season's premiere, bear in mind that "Grey's" is in its twelfth season, and now stands as the fall's second-highest rated returning drama.
If "Grey's" came back hot, lead-out "Scandal" was absolutely torrid, averaging 10.2 million viewers and a 3.2 among adults 18-to-49, which works out to around 4.06 million demographically apposite viewers. Olivia Pope and her Beltway cronies ran the table in the key female demos, delivering a 4.9 with women 18-to-49, a 5.3 among women 25-to-54 and a 4.6 with women 18 to 34. ("Scandal" also ran away with the 'tweens 12-to-17 crown, which given all the sexytime on display is totes inappropes.)
For all that, "Scandal" did slip 16% versus last season's opener, although that is in keeping with the trends we've been seeing since the week began. Of the 19 returning series that premiered this week, 16 suffered double-digit percentile declines when compared to their year-ago season openers.
The 10 p.m. hour was another story. "How to Get Away with Murder," which was last season's No. 2-rated new show behind the runaway phenomenon that is "Empire," took a tumble, bowing to a series-low 8.4 million. Barring an upward adjustment in the live-plus-same-day data, Thursday night's "Murder" will also be its lowest-rated episode (2.6). That marks a 32% decline from the show's triumphant year-ago debut, when it notched a 3.8 in the dollar demo.
While it's likely that a good deal of the "Murder" drop-off may be ascribed to the tyranny of time-shifting -- it's now received doctrine that the DVR is the No. 1 "network" at 10 p.m. -- the ongoing defection of younger female viewers certainly isn't helping matters. Season-to-date, TV usage among women 18 to 24 is down 14% versus the year-ago period. Women 18 to 34 are off 10%, while TV usage among women 18 to 49 is down 7%. (Such is the power of "Empire" that usage declines among women were at their most temperate Wednesday night.)
If ABC enters the season looking to maintain its hegemonic stronghold over the Thursday night entertainment landscape, NBC hopes to return its prime-time lineup to respectability. While the salad days of the "Must-See TV" era are now a distant memory, NBC's Thursday night can only improve.
After scrubbing the last of its low-rated sitcoms from the roster last spring -- the new-look NBC Thursday marked the first time the network failed to schedule a comedy on the night since the 1980-81 season -- NBC is banking on a pair of kinetic new dramas. The two-hour premiere of "Heroes Reborn," the sequel to NBC's 2006-10 comic book homage, launched in front of an audience of 6.03 million viewers and a 1.9 in the demo, up 19% from the year-ago time slot occupant "The Biggest Loser."
The original "Heroes" premiered to 14.3 million viewers and a 5.9 in the demo on Monday, Sept. 25, 2006.
At 10 p.m., the Wesley Snipes curiosity "The Player" failed to make much headway against "Thursday Night Football," averaging just 4.86 million viewers and a 1.2 in the demo, down 14% from the season six premiere of "Parenthood."
Speaking of football, CBS's second prime-time NFL game featured the New York Giants, which in their first two games snatched defeat from the clutches of victory, and a truly god-awful Washington team. Eli Manning's propensity to overthrow his receivers kept things entertaining, as Giants standout Odell Beckham, Jr., plucked a wobbler out of the sky (and away from the cornerback) for a late touchdown. The Giants held on to win 32-21 in a game that delivered an overnight 11.9 household rating/20 share on CBS and NFL Network, up 40% versus the year-ago Bucs-Falcons blowout.