June 14, 2011 2:14pm PT by Marisa Guthrie
'The Glee Project's' Weak Premiere Ratings Leave Oxygen Execs Perplexed
The premiere of Oxygen’s The Glee Project drew just 455,000 viewers Sunday night at 9 p.m. with only 211,000 in the 18-49 demographic. Even worse, among Oxygen’s core demographic of women 18-34, only 80,000 watched. Granted the show faced the final game of a riveting NBA championship as well as the Tony Awards. But a combined total (for the premiere and the encore) of 792,000 viewers is nevertheless a head scratcher for Oxygen executives.
The Glee Project was supposed to open big, coming with a built-in fan base that devours everything Glee-related, from music downloads, to concert tickets, to blog posts about the character's summer vacation plans. Oxygen spent millions promoting The Glee Project. The show received overwhelmingly positive reviews and social media tracker Tumblrr ranked The Glee Project the No. 4 cable TV show on Sunday. Digital traffic was healthy; a music video of the cast performing Katy Perry’s “Firework” generated half-a-million views on YouTube.
Oxygen snapped up the reality competition spin-off in a rich off-net rerun deal for the Fox hit Glee. And Glee executive producers Ryan Murphy and Dante DiLoreto are onboard as producers of The Glee Project, which gives the winner a seven-episode arc on the scripted series.
So when the ratings came in this morning, there was surprise and disappointment at Oxygen’s Manhattan headquarters where they have been working overtime on the launch of The Glee Project as well as The World According to Paris.
Jason Klarman, president of Oxygen Media, sent his staff a memo to buck them up and to reiterate the network's commitment to growing the show.
“We couldn't be more proud of this critically acclaimed, first of its kind series that I – and this company – believe in 200 percent,” wrote Klarman. “From development and production to the marketing and digital initiatives to the spectacular press -- your work was flawless. And the critics agree unanimously using adjectives like ‘Mesmerizing,’ ‘Captivating,’ and lauding it as the ‘Best Talent Competition Show Ever. Period.’ Which is why, the 719,000 total viewers for the 9 and 10pm premiere and encore presentation was not the start that we had hoped for.”
In a subsequent staff meeting, Klarman said that the show would get more cross-promotional help from the NBCUni organization. And he noted that the premiere of Bravo’s Project Runway in December 2004 averaged just 219,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic.