NBC has lost its Voice, and therefore is losing, period.
As some of us thought might happen, without the hit singing competition The Voice and Sunday Night Football, NBC’s surprise move into first place this season has screeched to a stop. In December, the network had a clear lead in the important 18-to-49 demographic, but now is only one-tenth of a point ahead of CBS (a 2.9/8 rating for NBC versus a 2.8/8 for CBS). Based on how things are going, CBS will move into first place either next week or after the Super Bowl, which CBS gets to broadcast this year, and every human on Earth watches. (Or something close to that, anyway.)
Fox, meanwhile, which suffered through a terrible first half of the season, is making moves to recover — and will, probably finishing in second place when the season ends in May. Last week, American Idol showed that it’s not dead yet. The Following did well in its premiere this week. And the network announced today that it was pulling the beloved, but essentially unwatched, Ben & Kate; it will be replaced first by a double-shot of Raising Hope, and then Hell’s Kitchen, one of Fox’s 4,000 Gordon Ramsay reality offerings.
This move represents a throwing-in-the-towel on the network’s part in its dream to have a night of comedy for this season. But the good news for Fox’s comedies is that New Girl and The Mindy Project are holding steady on Tuesdays, while the NBC competition has basically collapsed without The Voice. Matthew Perry’s Go On, which held onto the Voice audience nicely, has proven that is not — or not yet, anyway — a standalone hit. Last night’s episode sank to a 1.3 among 18-to-49 year-olds: a shocking 50 percent drop from its average while The Voice was on. The weaker New Normal got a 1.2, which is 37 percent below its Voice-y average. Those sorts of ratings are in line with, or even worse, than NBC’s always-on-the-bubble Thursday comedies, like Parks & Recreation. (And let’s see how Community does when it comes back on Feb. 7; those ratings, whatever they are, might end up looking pretty good.)
A bright spot for NBC since the new year began is that The Biggest Loser, having suffered from viewer weariness from its twice-a-year schedule, has bounced back. Its week-to-week numbers are not only holding up, but it’s doing quite well in its new Monday spot.
Then there’s steady CBS. With the Super Bowl, some huge playoff games, and all its hit shows (NCIS especially has been posting huge ratings), the network is poised to finish first in 18-to-49, toppling Fox for the first time since the 2004-5 season. Whether NBC is able to recover when The Voice returns in March is another question — Grimm and The Revolution will also come back then, so the network will again be running at full strength. And we will see what that means.
Note: An earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that Kitchen Nightmares was coming to Fox on Tuesdays. It is Hell’s Kitchen That error occurred because there are so many Gordon Ramsay reality shows on Fox, as noted.