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No Sob Story: NBC's 'This Is Us' Returns to Record Ratings

By Published on .

Mandy Moore emotes on NBC's powerhouse 'This Is Us,' which began its sophomore season on Tuesday.
Mandy Moore emotes on NBC's powerhouse 'This Is Us,' which began its sophomore season on Tuesday. Credit: NBC Universal

The season premiere of NBC's runaway melodrama "This Is Us" is on track to deliver the network's highest ratings for an episode of scripted TV since 2012.

According to Nielsen preliminary fast national data, the opening salvo of the second season of "This Is Us" averaged 12.6 million viewers and a 3.8 in NBC's target demo, which works out to 4.9 million adults 18 to 49. That edges the 4.8 million members of the demo notched by the series premiere of "The Blacklist" four years ago, and just a hair shy of the 5.2 million advertiser-coveted viewers the first installment of "Revolution" scared up back on Sept. 17, 2012.

Hair-splitters will note that the Feb. 1, 2015, episode of "The Blacklist" delivered 10.7 million adults 18 to 49, but only by virtue of its leading out of NBC's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIX. Episodes that follow the NFL title tilt are not officially rolled up into the Nielsen full-season averages, so "The Blacklist" gets an asterisk.

The first new installment of "This Is Us" in more than six months improved on its year-ago demo performance (2.8) by 36 percent, and topped the fast nationals for the season one finale by 15 percent. (The finale inched up a tenth to a 3.4 in the demo in the final live-same-day tally.)

One of the rare broadcast series to improve its commercial deliveries in playback, "This Is Us" closed out its first season on NBC with an average demo draw of a 3.1 in the C3 currency. That marked a 15 percent gain over the show's live-same-day average (2.7), while the show's C7 average (3.4) improved 26 percent compared to the vanilla L+SD numbers.

Movie studios by far were the most visible advertisers in Tuesday night's premiere, which was the highest-rated program across all key demos. Paramount Pictures invested in a 60-second teaser for the comedy "Downsizing," while Universal Pictures ponied up for a minute-long spot for "Pitch Perfect 3" and Disney Pixar aired a 90-second trailer for the upcoming feature "Coco." Other studios in the mix were Columbia Pictures ("Only the Brave") and Fox Searchlight Pictures ("Battle of the Sexes").

Other "This Is Us" backers included TJ Maxx, Chevrolet, Pepsi, Apple and Papa John's. Given the cost of entry—buyers said a 30-second spot in the premiere fetched as much as $455,000 in the upfront—NBC was stingy with the in-house promos, granting a little over two minutes of airtime to hype "This Is Us" lead-out "Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders," "Megyn Kelly Today," "The Tonight Show" and its newfangled Thursday comedy lineup.

Speaking of the latest "Law & Order" offering, the Edie Falco-helmed anthology series bowed in the 10 p.m. slot to 6.22 million viewers and a 1.7 in the demo, or 2.19 million adults 18 to 49. While that isn't at all shabby for the final hour of prime-time, it does represent a loss of 55 percent of the "This Is Us" lead-in.

NBC ordered eight episodes of "True Crime," which is likely to be succeeded by the more contextually apposite new drama "Rise" when it finishes its fall run.

Elsewhere on the Tuesday night broadcast schedule, the CBS warhorse "NCIS" returned for its fifteenth season with a preliminary draw of 13.1 million and a 2.4 in the network's core demo, which works out to 2.9 million adults 25 to 54, down 29 percent versus the 4.1 million targeted viewers who tuned in for the year-ago opener. Meanwhile, "NCIS" lead-out "Bull" (1.9) dropped 44 percent compared to its series premiere, and "NCIS: New Orleans" (1.0) lost more than one-quarter (27 percent) of its year-ago demo.

Fox endured a rough night, as its 2016-17 hit "Lethal Weapon" in its new time slot fell 45 percent to a 1.2 in the 18-to-49 demo, while "The Mick" (0.9) skidded 31 percent versus its January time slot premiere and veteran comedy "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (0.8) was down 27 percent. Fox's prime-time average put it in fourth place on the night behind ABC, which aired the season finale of its summer effort "Celebrity Family Feud" and a special Tuesday night installment of the slumping "Dancing with the Stars."

The previous night, the Big Four kicked off the fall season with three series premieres and a preview of CBS's prequel/spinoff of "The Big Bang Theory." Leading out of broadcast TV's highest-rated series, "Young Sheldon" averaged 17.2 million viewers and a 5.5 in the CBS demo, good for a staggering 6.64 million adults 25-to-54. "Sheldon," which returns to its regular slot on Thursday, Nov. 2, retained 95 percent of its "Big Bang" lead-in; with an average live-same-day draw of 17.7 million viewers and 7 million adults 25 to 54, Old Sheldon & Co. actually improved on last season's opening demo by 5 percent.

The "Young Sheldon" preview was sufficiently huge for CBS to almost immediately grant the show a full-season order.

At 9:30 p.m., the freshman comedy "Me, Myself & I" bowed to 7.46 million viewers and a 2.4 in CBS's core demo, up considerably compared to former time slot occupant "The Odd Couple" (4.58 million, 1.6).

In what may have been the biggest surprise of the week thus far, ABC blew its 10 p.m. competition out of the water with the premiere of "The Good Doctor," which easily topped NBC's "The Brave." The medical drama averaged 11.2 million viewers and a 2.2 in adults 18 to 49, a 144 percent improvement over last season's "Conviction," which opened to a miserly 0.9 rating. That's good news for ABC, which in 2016-17 averaged just a 0.7 in the Monday hour after "Dancing with the Stars."

With an average delivery of a 1.3 in the 18-to-49 demo, "The Brave" got off to a rocky start, squandering 50 percent of its "Voice" lead-in and coming in 28 percent shy of the ratings served up by last year's placeholder, "Timeless." After years of serving as an incubator for hits ("The Blacklist") and less-enduring successes ("Smash," "Revolution, "Blindspot"), "The Voice" seems to have lost its mojo of late. Last season, "Taken" frittered away 57 percent of the demos teed up for it by "The Voice," and "Timeless" lost 46 percent of its lead-in. Both shows were renewed for a second season, with "Timeless" getting a reprieve three days after NBC effectively pulled the plug on it.

The lone series premiere on Wednesday's docket is CBS's "SEAL Team," which storms the beach out of "Survivor" in the 9 p.m. slot. Among the more notable returning shows are Fox's "Empire," NBC's "Chicago P.D." and ABC's "Modern Family."

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