Iffy Start for NBC's 'Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris'

Integrations Galore, as Promised

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Matt Iseman, Carrot Top, Reese Witherspoon, Little Neal, Neil Patrick Harris, Nicole Scherzinger and Gloria Gaynor in the series premiere of 'Best Time Ever' on NBC.
Matt Iseman, Carrot Top, Reese Witherspoon, Little Neal, Neil Patrick Harris, Nicole Scherzinger and Gloria Gaynor in the series premiere of 'Best Time Ever' on NBC. Credit: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

NBC's quest to defend its two-year winning streak got off to a so-so start Tuesday night, as the premiere of its new variety show "Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris" delivered mixed results.

According to Nielsen fast national data, the noisy, boisterous "Best Time Ever" averaged 6.77 million viewers and a 1.9 in the adults 18-to-49 demographic, and while those results were sufficient to win the 10 p.m. time slot, they also paled in comparison to the numbers put up by its lead-in.

The two-hour, penultimate episode of NBC's summer hit "America's Got Talent" averaged 11.3 million viewers and a 2.3 among 18-to-49-year-olds, peaking in the 9:30-10 p.m. slot with 11.6 million viewers and a 2.9 rating. By that measure, "Best Time Ever" lost 35% of its immediate lead-in; when compared to the entire episode of "AGT," the variety show's losses were less pronounced (-17%).

The "Best Time Ever" half-hour numbers perhaps were cause for greater concern, as the show lost more than 2 million viewers between the 10-10:30 p.m. slot and the 10:30-11 p.m. segment. Moreover, the rating in the 18-to-49 demo dropped 22% from the first half to the second, falling to a 1.8 from a 2.3.

While it's too early to assess how "Best Time Ever" will fare in subsequent weeks -- next Tuesday, the series will enjoy the benefit of leading out of "The Voice" before moving to the 8 p.m. slot on Sept. 29 -- the preliminary ratings suggest that the show isn't necessarily making the most of its live broadcast status. For one thing, last night's 10 p.m. slot should have made for easy pickings, as ABC's first Tuesday installment of "Dancing with the Stars" eked out a meager 1.1 in the 18-49 demo, while CBS countered with a repeat of "NCIS: New Orleans" (0.8). For another, the prospect of generating a good deal of co-viewing between older and younger viewers never materialized; "Best Time Ever" tied the elder-skewing "DWTS" with a 3.8 rating among adults 50 years old and up, but managed just a 0.8 with teens.

Not helping matters was the fact that fewer people were watching TV last night. Per Nielsen, the number of people tuned in between 10 and 11 p.m. was down 7% versus the year-ago period, with adults 18-49 down 13%. Younger viewers pulled their usual disappearing act, as TV usage among the 18-24 set on the hour was down 21%, with males in that age group plummeting 29% when compared to viewing levels on Sept. 16, 2014.

Adapted from a popular U.K. format, "Best Time Ever" marks the first new series debut of the 2015-16 broadcast season, which begins in earnest next Monday. The first overstuffed installment featured an audience participation segment, celebrity pranks, a karaoke competition, lengthy promotional bits for "The Voice" and "American Ninja Warrior" and special guest announcer Reese Witherspoon. For all that, it was a handful of high-end sponsors that stood out the most.

During NBC's May upfront presentation, NPH breathlessly pitched media buyers on the inherent opportunities to plan integrations within the show, and apparently more than a few took the host up on his offer. After a few early nods to Sandals Resorts and the Hilton hotel chain, NPH sang the praises of the "official auto of 'Best Time Ever," the 2016 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk. That integration was followed by a rapid-fire array of brands like Kohler, Suzuki, Sharper Image and Vitamix.

Among the eclectic mix of 28 brands that invested in 30-second spots within the broadcast were Bristol-Myers Squibb's Orencia, Fisher Price, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Jack in the Box, Warner Bros.' "The Intern," CarMax and Marie Callender's.

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