'Sleepy Hollow' premiere ratings decapitate rivals

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Off with their heads! The premiere of Fox’s Sleepy Hollow lobbed off the competition Monday night.

Hollow scored 10 million viewers and a 3.4 rating among adults 18-49 (check out Jeff Jensen’s review). That’s 127 percent better than last fall’s disastrous The Mob Doctor premiere. In fact, this is Fox’s highest-rated fall drama premiere in six years. Hollow also significantly built upon its lead in — the return of Bones — which was down slightly from last year (chart below).

On ABC, the return of Dancing With the Stars delivered a desperately needed ratings rebound for the franchise — 16.2 million viewers and a 3.2 rating in the demo, up 28 percent from last fall’s All-Stars edition.

While the season finale of CBS’ Under the Dome (11.8 million) had its largest audience since its summer premiere and its biggest demo ratings(2.8) since in several weeks. See Darren Franich’s recap.

Though next week is the official start of broadcast season, when most shows get underway, last night was the unofficial starter pistol for the fall. Broadcasters are going to be relieved by the Sleepy Hollow and Dancing numbers, proving once again that audiences are still showing up. The Dancing boost was particularly needed. The franchise has been in a spiral and this is the first time the show’s rating has climbed year-over-year since 2010. One suspects the casting of Valerie Harper, who is appearing on the show while fighting brain cancer, helped jump-start interest. Perhaps the lower commitment this season of dumping the results show helped, too. Another certain factor: Last fall’s edition premiered opposite NBC crusher The Voice.

And The Voice can’t return too soon for NBC. Monday had the ambitiously convoluted Million Second Quiz, and the season finales of American Ninja Warrior and deep-freeze flop Siberia.

Fox is pushing for reporters to add a new number into their next-day ratings reports this season: DVR gain projections. Fox predicts Hollow will grow to more than a 5.0 rating with the addition of seven days of DVR playback (these regular morning numbers only include DVR playback from the night before). We’re now at a point where DVR playback is so large that the morning numbers don’t tell anywhere close to the full story of a show’s popularity. Yet even the networks concede the next-day numbers are still crucial — they usually give you a clear idea of how a show is stacking up against the competition and which direction a show is trending week after week, if not the show’s eventual total mass viewership. It’s not entirely unlike using opening weekend box office to grade how well a movie will perform. Also, advertisers put a premium on live viewing, so premiere night ratings tend to have an outsized influence.

Competition is only going to get tougher over the next month as broadcasters roll out all their shows (schedule here).

Full Super Handy Chart:

 ADULT DEMO RANK  ADULTS 18-49 RATING  TOTAL VIEWERS
FOX 8-9P BONES P #4 2.2 7,526
9-10P SLEEPY HOLLOW P #1 3.4 10,046
ABC 8-10P DANCING P #2 3.2 16,190
10-11P CASTLE RS #7t 1.5 7,688
CBS 8:00P HIMYM R #11 1.3 4,313
8:30P 2BROKE RS #7t 1.5 4,384
9:00P 2BROKE R #7t 1.5 4,999
9:30P BG BANG RS #5 1.8 6,073
10-11P UNDER DOME #3 2.8 11,839
NBC 8-9P MILLION S #13t 1.1 3,747
9-10P AMRN NINJA #6 1.6 4,228
10-11P SIBERIA #15 0.8 2,226
CW 8-9P HART-DIXIE R #19t 0.2 706
9-10P BRKG POINTE #19t 0.2 499
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