TV Ratings: 'Nashville' Move Gets a Modest Start — But Sets a 5-Year CMT High

The canceled ABC drama premieres with a decent two-net sampling, giving the cable net its best original premiere since 2012.

Nashville finally made its CMT debut on Thursday night. And after a distinct Viacom strategy to drop the first telecast on multiple networks, early returns have it faring reasonably well in the key demo — if far south of the audience it drew on ABC.

Across four telecasts, two on CMT and one on Nick at Nite, the two-hour cable launch of Nashville grossed just shy of a 0.8 rating among adults 18-49 and nearly 2 million viewers. On CMT alone, where the series will be debuting original episodes before subsequent streaming on co-financier Hulu, the first airing averaged 1.2 million viewers and a .45 rating in the key demo. (That's about half of what a typical rerun of The Big Bang Theory fetches on TBS.)

It's not often that anyone bothers to check in on live-plus-same day ratings for cable drama. Outside of The Walking Dead and Ryan Murphy's FX offerings, most of them don't amount to much until time-shifting and streaming are taken into account. But it also isn't often that a Big Four series moves to the 62nd most-watched channel on the dial.

To be fair, Nashville will likely see the majority of its audience tune in on venues that are not live and CMT. But it has a way to go if it wants to recapture a solid portion of its ABC audience. The finale broadcast season of Nashville averaged a live 1.0 rating among adults 18-49 and 4.2 million viewers. With just DVR, no streaming, the drama rose to a 1.8 rating among adults 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers.

Performance expectations for Nashville will be higher than most cable dramas. When ABC canceled the series, it was quite expensive. And while the costs have changed and are shared by CMT and Hulu, its star-heavy cast (most notably lead Connie Britton) comes with a price tag — and none are currently obliged to stay beyond these 22 episodes.