NBC Starts 2012-13 Season With First 3-Week Ratings Advantage in 10 Years

NFL The Voice Revolution Split - H 2012
Getty images; NBC

NFL The Voice Revolution Split - H 2012

With most premieres out of the way and fall TV settling into something of a routine, NBC has scored another rather telling record.

The network has won the first three weeks of the official season with adults 18-49. It hasn't had that advantage in the demo since the start of the 2002 season, when NBC still had its ratings powerhouse series of the '90s.

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Averages for the week of Oct. 8-14, which also saw the network's first three-night in-season streak since 2003, have NBC nearly a point ahead of its closest competition. The network's 2.9 rating with adults 18-49 led a closely matched CBS (2.1), Fox (2.1) and ABC (2.0) -- with an especially robust CW reaching a recent high of a 0.8 adults rating.

Season to date, NBC is the only of the big four to see gains in the demo over last year, moving up 15 percent to an average 3.0 rating with adults 18-49 for the first three weeks. Last season's winner, CBS, is down 24 percent -- thanks in large part to uncharacteristically large figures at the start of Ashton Kutcher's Two and a Half Men tenure -- to a 2.6 rating with adults 18-49. Fox is down 19 percent to a season average of a 2.5 adults rating, while ABC, dropping the least with 12 percent, is in fourth with a 2.6 adults rating.+

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Owing a debt of this performance to TV's top performer, Sunday Night Football, NBC has also owes much of its advantage to the successful addition of The Voice to its fall line-up. Though down from the spring's run earlier in the year, its provided the network with a guaranteed win every Monday. NBC also has the seasons strongest debuts in Revolution and Go On. Both have maintained solid leads among other new dramas and comedies, respectively, despite starting several weeks before the competition.

And though the beginning of the week has been a huge boon to the network's overall numbers, NBC still falters on Wednesdays, Thursdays and, with the exception of Grimm's solid performance, Fridays.

Over the last eight seasons, NBC has failed to finish ahead of any of the other big four networks. Twice tying for third place with help from a Super Bowl boost, it has finished fourth in the adults 18-49 demo every year since 2004 when final Live+7 numbers have been tallied.

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Three weeks is just a drop in the TV bucket, but this early advantage isn't something that will be easily shaken. Looking ahead to the NBC's post-NFL schedule during the second half of the season, one of the bigger questions will be how The Voice will fare airing another season without a sizable break -- and how much of an advantage American Idol will maintain as it reinvents its judges panel for the twelfth season.