Wednesday (Sept. 20) marked the fall season's first night of competitive premieres, leaving the networks scrambling on Thursday to spin each and every demographic race in the most positive way possible.
Look, for example, at CBS' "Kid Nation." After hiding the controversial reality series from critics (who wrote largely mixed reviews after the initial airing), CBS drew 9.38 million viewers to its premiere.
Optimistic spin out of CBS found far more to cheer about. "Kid Nation" won its time period in adults 18-49, children 2-11 and children 6-11. Not only did the show's ratings improve in its second half-hour, but "Kid Nation" added roughly 300,000 viewers between Nielsen Fast National estimates and final figures and CBS was already predicting a five percent DVR playback bump. In addition, CBS celebrated the best time period delivery in teens since the 2006 Grammys.
Sure, Negative Nellys would say that 1.66 million viewers vanished between the second half of "America's Next Top Model" and the first half of "Gossip Girl" and that "Gossip Girl" lost 32 percent of its lead-in among adults 18-49.
Not surprisingly, The CW viewers the results a bit differently, emphasizing that "Gossip Girl" won its hour among women 18-34, teens and female teens. "Gossip Girl" retained 93 percent of the "ANTM" female teen audience and 79 percent of its 18-34 audience. The CW contextualizes that the 5.3 rating for "Gossip Girl" among teen females was better than the series debuts of "The OC," "One Tree Hill," "Gilmore Girls," and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." In that demo, it also performed 56 percent better than last season's premiere of "One Tree Hill."
Over on FOX, there was enthusiasm for the premiere of the star-studded "Back to You," which won its half-hour time period in total viewers (9.4 million) and among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. "Back to You" had a 3.1 rating in the 18-49 demo, tying with the premiere of "Kitchen Nightmares" for the night's best.
What will happen to all of these numbers as more shows premiere in the weeks to come? Stay tuned.