Last night was the first official night of the 2008-09 TV season. Canadian and American Networks decimated by strikes and declining ratings were reloaded and ready. But would viewers come back?
The answer so far: yes and no. Both Global and NBC needed a show that had sat on the shelf for nine months--Heroes--to rescue their ratings. The results were mixed. In the U.S., battered NBC ran with three straight hours of Heroes programming, including an hour-long "recap" episode, which bombed. The two-hour third season premiere was down sharply year-to-year (9.89 million viewers vs. 16.97), finishing third in its timeslot pretty much throughout the night (although mainly second in the demo).
In Canada, Heroes did better, drawing over 1.3 million viewers. That's pretty good, especially when you factor in demo wins against stiff CTV competition in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary) but still down year-to-year (19% in the first hour, as CTV points out in their press release).
The big winner last night in Canada was the seventh season return of CSI Miami. The forensic cop series roared back with 2.8 million CTV viewers, smoking Heroes in total households nationally at the 10 p.m. hour (although, as Global's release declares, Heroes still beats CSI Miami in the demo in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary. There must be a LOT of 50+ viewers watching CSI Miami).
Curiously, CSI Miami didn't even win the night in the U.S., where it drew a total of 16.87 million viewers. ABC's Dancing with the Stars was the big winner there, drawing 21.12 million over the two hour season premiere. In Canada on CTV, Dancing drew 1.74 million, trouncing, in the first hour, Global's Prison Break (947,000 viewers). Prison Break is really on the run in the States, where Fox counted just 5.94 million viewers, ranking fourth in households and demos.
Probably a mistake to generalize after one night, but it seems the aging shows are slowing down faster in the States than they are in Canada.
The hardiest show of the night may be Two and a Half Men, which drew 14.93 million on CBS (where it tied for No. 1 in the demo with Dancing) and nearly another million in Canada on CTV's "A" channel. That's the killer one-two for Global: CTV and A grab 2.74 million viewers at 9 p.m., sucking all but the core fans away from Heroes.
A very competitive night got the usual very competitive headlines from the rival Canadian networks. CTV ran with "#1 and #2 With a Bullet – CTV Wins Night 1 of 2008-09 Television Season," while Global boasted, "SUPERPOWERFUL NIGHT ON GLOBAL ‘HEROES’ WINS ACROSS ALL MAJOR MARKETS." Advantage Global for going all caps. Cool the way everybody wins like that.
As the private nets rolled out the heavy guns, CBC was flattened. They didn't put up much of a fight. A repeat of The Englishman's Boy (which features an incredible performance by Nicholas Campbell) drew an estimated 6,000 18-49-year-old viewers in Toronto, 3,000 in Vancouver and 3,000 in Calgary. Might as well have run a picture of white flag.
This on a day when NDP leader Jack Layton declares in Quebec that he wants to see more Canadian-produced shows in primetime on Canadian networks, and prime minister Stephen Harper dismisses Canadian film and TV producers as "government subsidized whiners." Harper may sound like a "conservatueur,' as he is dismissed by those opposed to over $45 million in Tory culture cuts, but he knows polls, and the Nielsen poll shows Canadian voters are overwhelmingly plunked in front of CSI Miami. Harper knows Canadians vote not with their hearts, but with their ass.