Olympics Push Fails to Ignite NBC's 'Timeless'; ABC's 'Conviction' Is D.O.A.

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NBC's 'Timeless'
NBC's 'Timeless' Credit: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

Despite an Olympian effort on NBC's part to promote its new sci-fi adventure series, "Timeless" last night put up unspectacular ratings numbers in its premiere outing.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, "Timeless" debuted to 7.60 million viewers and a 1.8 in the target demo, which works out to some 2.31 million adults 18-48. While those preliminary deliveries were sufficient to beat out a soft 10 p.m. competitive slate, they also marked a steep 42% decline when compared with the 3.1 rating year-ago time slot occupant "Blindspot" earned on its launch date.

An area of particular concern is "Timeless'" poor retention performance in what is the most valuable piece of real estate on NBC's primetime schedule. The time travel show shed more than 40% of its lead-out's audience, as "The Voice" averaged 11.8 million viewers and a 3.0 in the demo.

The half-hour results suggest that as many as 1.09 million viewers bailed on "Timeless" before the closing credits rolled. Per Nielsen, the first 30 minutes of the premiere episode averaged a 2.0 in the demo, while the latter half dipped to a 1.7 -- a decline of 15%.

The iffy turnout for "Timeless" was unexpected, given its perch in primetime's most protected time slot and the massive promotional push provided by its parent network. Over the course of its 17 days and nights of Summer Olympics coverage, NBC devoted nearly 10% of its in-house promos to "Timeless," making it the most heavily touted property on the fall schedule. And because "Timeless" premiered six weeks after the Games ended, the hype machine didn't wind down in Rio. In the past 14 days alone, NBC has aired no fewer than 142 "Timeless" slots, according to iSpot.tv estimates.

ABC's 'Conviction'
ABC's 'Conviction' Credit: ABC/John Medland

If the early numbers for "Timeless" were less than spectacular, the show may very well see a substantial lift upon application of the currency data. Last year, "Blindspot" saw its season average jump 28% from a 1.8 in live-same-day to a 2.3 in C3, which secured its ranking as the year's highest-rated new series in the metric that matters most to NBC's advertisers.

Since the 2011-12 campaign, NBC has used the post-"Voice" slot as an incubator for a number of high-profile dramas. And while one of these shows (the Katherine Heigl Beltway drama "State of Affairs") was not well-received and two others ("Smash," "Revolution") didn't live to see a third season, "The Blacklist" has managed to thrive in its Thursday night environs. (The jury's still out on "Blindspot," which is drawing a 1.3 in the demo in its new Wednesday 8 p.m. slot.)

Per Ad Age's annual TV ad pricing chart, "Timeless" is the most expensive new 10 p.m. show on the fall schedule, with the average 30-second spot fetching $188,046 a pop.

If "Timeless" didn't quite live up to initial expectations, ABC's new legal drama "Conviction" was an all-out bust, bowing to just 5.17 million viewers and a woeful 0.9 in the demo opposite "Timeless" and CBS's "Scorpion."

Starring "Marvel's Agent Carter" alum Hayley Atwell, "Conviction" lost more than half of its "Dancing with the Star" lead-in (10.7 million viewers), while dropping 47% of its demo cushion (1.7). It also failed to match rickety year-ago occupant "Castle," which last fall kicked off its eighth and final season with a 1.2 in the 18-49 demo.

As befits a show that bowed out of one of the oldest-skewing programs on TV, less than a quarter (22%) of the "Conviction" audience fell within the parameters of the 18-49 age range.

Given that most new series lose between 15% and 20% of their premiere deliveries on their second night on the schedule, "Conviction" is unlikely to see the other side of Halloween. That said, it's worth noting that the 10 p.m. time slot is now more or less a ghost town; as such, ABC may grade "Conviction" on a very steep curve.

Media buyers said that "Conviction" was the cheapest buy in its time slot, earning an average unit cost of $109,662 per 30-second spot.

Season-to-date, ABC ranks third among adults 18-49 with an average nightly rating of a 1.5, giving it a slight advantage over the basement-dwelling Fox (1.4). NBC is tops with a 2.4, while CBS is in the runner-up slot (1.9). The standings are similar among adults 25-54, with NBC leading all comers with a 3.0, while CBS is averaging a 2.6, ABC a 1.9 and Fox a 1.7. In aggregate, the Big Four nets are down 14% in the 18-49 demo compared to the first two weeks of 2015-16.

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