Ratings: Is NBC overusing 'The Voice'?

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The Voice‘s rescue tour around NBC’s schedule continued Thursday night, with a special edition of the competition series boosting comedies The Office and Parks and Recreation. But was it worth it?

The night before, another special airing of The Voice gave considerable lift to Chicago Fire (and the firefighting drama was then picked up for a full season). Last night, The Voice (9 million, 3.0) gave a big lead into The Office (5.3 million viewers, 2.5 adults 18-49 rating) and Parks (3.8 million, 1.8). Both comedies improved considerably from their last original airings (The Office was up 32 percent to a season high). But even with the increase, NBC’s sitcom hour still ranked fourth at 9 p.m. — behind ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (9.2 million, 3.2), CBS’ Person of Interest (14.7 million, 2.9) and Fox’s Glee (5.7 million, 2.4).

Moreover, the November sweeps-stunt airing of The Voice head-to-head against Fox’s X-Factor (6.3 million, 2.3) two nights in a row is taking its toll. Once again, X-Factor was steady in the ratings week-to-week (though tied its low) while The Voice dropped, airing in this brutal time period against hits like CBS’ Big Bang Theory (16.5 million, 5.0) and Two and a Half Men (14.1 million, 4.0). In fact, The Voice matched its all-time ratings low last night, and could sink more once some NFL preemption is removed from Nielsen’s data later today. 

NBC might feel like The Voice is some unbreakable ratings hammer. It’s not. Even major hits have a delicate relationship with viewers, especially nowadays, and running five hours of any primetime reality series in one week — including two episodes in special time periods — is a lot to ask of a show and its audience. Wednesday’s special made total sense because The Voice‘s regular Tuesday’s telecast was preempted by election coverage and airing the next day helped NBC’s new struggling new drama series at just the right time. NBC disrupting its schedule a second time the same week, presumably so The Voice could lift the ninth and final season of The Office, a show that’s as done as done can be, is more perplexing and risky.

Careful NBC, you don’t want to Millionaire this thing.

UPDATE: NBC sources say that while helping The Office was a nice bonus, the reason for adding a fifth hour to The Voice was part of the show’s creative plan to get down to a Top 12 in one week. The idea was to give each coach one hour for final performances for each of their five contestants, but then the show still needed a night for America to vote.

Now about those ratings for ABC’s Last Resort (6 million, 1.4). The sub drama was up a tenth from its last performance a couple weeks ago. Good numbers? No, but I suspect ABC will take into account that the drama was under fire from The Voice (last time it was the World Series, there’s always something).

Also last night: ABC had Grey’s Anatomy (9.2 million, 3.2), up 8 percent, and a steady Scandal (6.1 million, 2.0). CBS had Elementary (10.7 million, 2.2), down 8 percent. CW had Vampire Diaries (3 million, 1.4) and Beauty and the Beast (1.9 million, 0.7).

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