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‘Will & Grace’ Return Ignites NBC

Football Leads CBS to Overnight Victory, but 'Will & Grace' is the Bigger Story


Household Rating/Share
CBS: 7.0 rating/12 share, ABC: 4.7/ 8, NBC: 4.6/ 8, Fox: 2.5/ 4, CW: 0.9/ 2

Percent Change from Opening Thursday in 2016 – 9/21/16:
CW: +50, NBC: +10, ABC: no change, Fox: -17, CBS:-24

-Ratings Breakdown:
CBS won this first Thursday in the 2017-18 TV season thanks to the Chicago Bears/Green Bay Packers match-up on NFL Football. But the bigger story was NBC sitcom “Will & Grace,” which returned after an 11-year absence with a dominant 7.7 rating/12 share in the 9 p.m. half-hour. Comparably, this was 67 percent above the season-premiere of former time period occupant “Chicago Med” on the first Thursday in 2016 (9/21/16). It built from lead-in “The Good Place” (#3: 3.4/ 6 at 8:30 p.m.) by a hefty 126 percent. And it was, no doubt, the largest opening for any sitcom on NBC in the overnights in years.

Needless to say, there was the curiosity factor last night. But once the dust settles, “Will & Grace” should have no trouble setting into a very solid return on NBC. The only thing missing is Shelley Morrison as Rosario.

Ignited by “Will & Grace,” season two of NBC comedy “Great News,” featuring guest star Tina Fey, rose to a series-high 3.7/ 6 (#3) at 9:30 p.m. The overnight retention for “Great News” out of “Will & Grace,” however, was only 48 percent.

Airing out of “Great News” was the season premiere of NBC drama “Chicago Fire,” which finished second with a 4.8/ 9 at 10 p.m. Comparably, that bested the season premiere of ABC’s competing “How To Get Away From Murder” (#3: 3.1/ 5) by 55 percent, and it was nine percent above the year-ago season-opening performance of “The Blacklist” (4.4/ 8 on 9/21/16).

Earlier in the evening on NBC was the third season premiere of sitcom “Superstore” at a third-place 3.3/ 6 in the 8 p.m. half-hour, which was 11 percent below the 3.7/ 6 on the year-ago opening Thursday.

On CBS, the aforementioned Chicago Bears/Green Bay Packers match-up, which was delayed by approximately 45-minutes due to lightening, averaged an estimated 7.3/12.

Over at ABC, two episodes of veteran “Grey’s Anatomy” was on the overnight map with a 5.7/10 (#2) in the 8 p.m. hour, which was 10 percent below the 6.3/10 on the year-ago opening Thursday, and a 5.3/ 8 at 9 p.m. (#3). At this point, “Grey’s Anatomy,” now in season 14, should have no trouble surpassing 15-year “ER” as the longest-running medical drama in TV history.

Elsewhere, Fox could not compete with its pairing of dramas “Gotham” (#4: 2.2/ 3) and “The Orville” (#4: 2.8/5). And The CW featured “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” (#5: 1.1/ 2) and two episodes (original and repeat) of “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” (avg. 0.7/ 1 from 9-10 p.m.).
What follows is the breakdown by half-hour for Thursday, September 28:

8:00 p.m.
ABC – “Grey’s Anatomy” (season premiere): 5.9/10 (#1)
CBS – NFL Football Kickoff: 5.3/10 (#2
NBC – “Superstore” (season premiere): 3.3/ 6 (#3)
Fox – “Gotham”: 2.3/ 4 (#4)
CW – “Penn & Teller: Fool Us”: 1.1/ 2 (#5)

8:30 p.m.
ABC – “Grey’s Anatomy” (season premiere): 5.6/ 9 (#2)
CBS – Thursday Football (Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers): 7.8/13 (#1)
NBC – “The Good Place”: 3.4/ 6 (#3)
Fox – “Gotham”: 2.1/ 3 (#4)
CW – “Penn & Teller: Fool Us”: 1.1/ 2 (#5)

9:00 p.m.
ABC – “Grey’s Anatomy”: 5.3/ 8 (#3)
CBS – Thursday Football (Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers): 7.6/13 (#2)
NBC – “Will & Grace” (season premiere/return): 7.7/12 (#1)
Fox – “The Orville”: 2.7/ 4 (#4)
CW – “Whose Line is it Anyway?”: 0.7/ 1 (#5)

9:30 p.m.
ABC – “Grey’s Anatomy”: 5.4/ 9 (#3)
CBS – Thursday Football (Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers): 6.3/10 (#1)
NBC – “Great news” (season premiere): 3.7/ 6 (#3)
Fox – “The Orville”: 2.9/ 5 (#4)
CW – “Whose Line is it Anyway?” (R): 0.7/ 1 (#5)

10:00 p.m.
ABC – “How to Get Away With Murder” (season premiere): 3.2/ 5 (#3)
CBS – Thursday Football (Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers): 7.8/13 (#1)
NBC – “Chicago Fire” (season premiere): 4.9/ 8 (#2)

10:30 p.m.
ABC – “How to Get Away With Murder” (season premiere): 3.0/ 6 (#3)
CBS – Thursday Football (Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers): 7.1/12 (#1)
NBC – “Chicago Fire” (season premiere): 4.7/ 9 (#2)

Source: Nielsen Media Research


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  1. I am happy for W&G. I wonder what the demo will be. I am thinking that a lot of people who watched the first time around have crept out of the 18-49 range and am not sure if the younger people will have as much interest in it since it is now a nostalgia factor thing rather than ground breaking.

    • Man the demo blew me away at 3.0 because I didn’t expect it to skew that young I thought it was skew older as well like actually barely beat Kevin Can Wait from earlier in the week. This is a good sign that the young people are watching it so maybe the drop-off next week won’t be so bad.

  2. Great for Will & Grace and NBC… but proof positive that one sitcom cannot lift an entire night. Yes, NBC is up year over year – but only by 10%…. and you can see that despite NBC’s best efforts, Superstore, Good Place and Great News will settle into year-ago numbers before no time. Sorry, but this is not the return of Must-See TV.

    Moving Chicago Fire was good for Thursdays, but not great for Tuesday’s as the interest level in L&O:True Crime appears to be minimal.

    • Definitely great for W&G but what you brought up was very true it can’t lift the other sitcoms and this is why NBC needs to build comedies that fit with Will & Grace which is basically multi-cams. I like some people’s suggestions on other sites that NBC should reboot another comedy from the past to put with W&G next year. W&G performs better with other hit comedies this is the first time in a long-time maybe since The Office back in its heyday that I’ve seen an NBC comedy perform this well with no help around it.

      Right now though this is nowhere near Must See TV though and they might’ve had something close to it if they would’ve kept This Is Us on Thursdays.

      That Chicago Fire move was really good for them it gives them a good foundation but Tuesdays are a mess but luckily NBC has Chicago Med on the way later in the season in that slot.

      • I’ll point out again the Tyranny of Low Expectations as a show premiering with 10 million viewers really should be called a “great” result or on fire, even if it is in comparison with the disaster area that is Thursdays when BBT isn’t playing.

    • Very good analysis. 🙂

      NBC is spinning like a whirling dervish but the reality will still be dire unless, somehow, W&G develops into a hit again, which I wouldn’t put money on…

  3. That’s quite the fall off for Will & Grace after their last original episode and not exactly
    “great news” for the rest of NBC’s Thursday programming against a weak NFL match-up.

    • Well the last episode aired in 2006 so a lot has changed since then so I don’t think it’s fair to expect W&G to match that. It’s been way too many years since then. Still a great start though as NBC has had a rough time with comedies this decade.

      Great News was really bad and weak it needs to go. GN is gonna get eaten alive when W&G drops and TNF has some better matchups.

      • But what is it that has changed? Nothing that would prevent real hit-level ratings.

        W&G was cancelled for lack of viewership and gets 10 million viewers after a huge marketing campaign. If it manages to keep them it’ll look great compared to the ratings black hole that NBC has become but it’s the opposite of what NBC needs to do to survive, let alone thrive and that is where you see that its owners at Comcast really don’t understand the problem or how to fix it.






    Updated Thursday Primetime Ratings (key updates in red):

    Powered by the return of “Will & Grace,” NBC has scored its most-watched Premiere Thursday (6.452 million) in nine years (7.930 million in 2008).

    The ninth season debut of “Will & Grace” (3.0/11 in 18-49, 10.2 million viewers overall in from 9-9:30 p.m. ET):
    · Is NBC’s top debut for a new or returning comedy, excluding post-Olympic previews, in six years (since Sept. 22, 2011).
    · Is NBC’s best telecast of a primetime comedy series, excluding post-Olympic previews, since the “Office” finale (3.0 on May 16, 2013).
    · In total viewers, is NBC’s most-watched telecast of a Thursday comedy series in 10 years (since “My Name Is Earl,” 10.685 million at 8 p.m. on Feb. 1, 2007).
    · Is the #1 entertainment show of the night in both 18-49 and total viewers.
    · Soars +173% above NBC’s timeslot average last season in 18-49 (3.0 vs. 1.1, L+SD excluding sports) and +4.2 million persons or +69% in total viewers 10.193 million vs. 6.023 million viewers overall).

    The second season debut of “Great News” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 5.2 million viewers overall from 9:30-10 p.m. ET):
    · Sets a new series record in 18-49 (topping its prior record, the 1.2 for its April 25 series premiere with a “Voice” lead-in).
    · Also sets new records in total viewers (5.153, topping the 5.134 of April 25) and adults 25-54 (1.7, up from a 1.6 on April 25).
    · Jumps +63% versus last season’s finale in 18-49 (1.3 vs. 0.8 from 8:30-9 p.m. on May 23) and +67% in total viewers (5.125 million vs. 3.073 million).

    The sixth season debut of “Chicago Fire” (1.5/6 in 18-49, 7.2 million viewers overall from 10-11 p.m. ET):
    · Generates NBC’s best 18-49 and total-viewer results in the slot with non-sports regular programming since Jan. 7, 2016 in 18-49 (1.8 in 18-49, 8.6 million viewers).
    · Ranks #1 among entertainment programs in the time period ahead of ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” in total viewers, adults, men and women 18-49 and adults, men and women 25-54, including a +50% margin over “Murder” in adults 18-49 (1.5-1.0).
    · Grows +67% versus NBC’s average in the slot last season in 18-49 (1.5 vs. 0.9, L+SD non-sports) and +49% in total viewers (7.176 million vs. 4.824 million).
    · Scores the show’s highest 18-49 and total-viewer results since Tuesday, March 21 in 18-49 (1.5 in 18-49, 7.210 million viewers).

    The third season premiere of “Superstore” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall from 8-8:30 p.m. ET):
    · Equals the show’s top rating in the past year, since Sept. 22, 2016 (1.5) and scores its best total-viewer result since Oct. 6, 2016 (5.041 million).
    · Jumps +63% versus last season’s finale in 18-49 (1.3 vs. 0.8 at 8:30 on May 4) and +1.7 million persons or +58% in total viewers (4.596 million vs. 2.910 million).

    The second season regular-slot debut of “The Good Place” (1.4/5 in 18-49, 4.7 million viewers overall from 8:30-9 p.m. ET):
    · Equals the show’s regular-slot series record in 18-49, set with last year’s regular-slot premiere on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016, and equaled on Oct. 6, 2016.
    · Scores the show’s top Thursday total-viewer result since Oct. 6, 2016 (4.9 million viewers overall).
    · Grows +7% of last week’s special Wednesday season premiere in 18-49 (1.4 vs. 1.3 from 10:01-11 p.m. on Sept. 20), which benefited from a lead-in from the “America’s Got Talent” season finale.
    · Increases by +27% versus last season’s finale in 18-49 (1.4 vs. 1.1 from 8-9 p.m. on Jan. 19) and by +19% in total viewers (4.7 million vs. 3.9 million).

    NOTE: Primetime results are based on official-national “live plus same day” data from Nielsen Media Research unless otherwise indicated.

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