NBC tried to get the party started early on Tuesday night. The reigning ratings champ of the last two broadcast seasons, which also has vested interest in live programming, debuted Neil Patrick Harris‘ Best Time Ever before the official start of the TV calendar.
Did viewers join in the experiment? Well, after an enviable lead-in from the first part of the America’s Got Talent season finale, the hourlong variety show debuted to a 1.9 rating among adults 18-49 and 6.8 million viewers. It’s a pretty solid showing, considering the late hour and strong retention from the hour before.
As for Talent, it nabbed a 2.3 rating in the key demo and 11.3 million viewers over its two-hour run. That’s up 10 percent among adults 18-49 from last week.
Best Time Ever, billed as an eight-week event, is a variety series at its heart — and very much in line with the network’s push for live programming. The premiere score is not quite at the level of most marquee live telecasts, though it’s also one without much comparison given the unique nature of the show. A real test will be who tunes in next week, when the show has an almost assuredly bigger lead-in from The Voice, and then the weeks after when it shifts to 8 p.m.
Elsewhere, original efforts were slim. Dancing With the Stars aired a special recap of ABC’s Monday premiere, averaging a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49. CBS had a new episode of Big Brother (2.0 adults) and a steady finale of Zoo (0.9 adults). The latter has yet to be renewed — but given its steady (if soft) linear performance and the rich streaming pact with Netflix, a pickup might not be far off.