'Smash' and 'The Voice' ratings: Has NBC finally started to turn the corner?

smash-premiere-ratings.jpgOne thing about the ratings for NBC's lineup Monday night is very clear: The decision to put "The Voice" after the Super Bowl worked.

The early returns on "Smash" are pretty promising too, although not quite at the runaway-success level of its lead-in.

After Sunday's massive debut, "The Voice" moved to its regular timeslot Monday night (Feb. 6) and beat all comers by a wide margin. The two-hour show drew 17.84 million people and a 6.7 rating among adults 18-49, according to final same-day numbers from Nielsen (that's up a tick from the fast nationals).

Other than Sunday's Super Bowl episode, it was the most-watched installment of "The Voice" by a wide margin. The previous high for the show in viewers was 14.4 million on May 31, 2011, and its best 18-49 number was a 5.1 for the series premiere 5.7 for its second episode. The show dominated the night, leading its closest competitors ( "2 Broke Girls" and "Two and a Half Men") by more than two full points among adults 18-49.

The big lead-in helped the series premiere of "Smash" score 11.44 million viewers and a 3.8 rating in adults 18-49. Its demo rating was the best this season for any 10 p.m. drama on ABC, CBS or NBC this season, and it gave NBC its best performance in the timeslot (not counting sports) since November 2008.

NBC put a huge marketing push behind "Smash" and also made the premiere episode available on demand and online for several weeks before its on-air debut. Whether people who watched early came back on Monday or stayed away is impossible to say with much certainty, but it's at least the second show this season (along with FOX's "New Girl") that debuted to strong ratings after making its pilot available online beforehand.

On the other hand, the ratings for "Smash," while way above NBC's paltry average at 10 on Mondays this season, weren't world-beating, and its numbers also declined some in the second half-hour (though that's not uncommon for 10 o'clock shows -- it happened to "Castle" and "Hawaii Five-0" Monday night as well).

It's also been noted how similar "Smash's" numbers are to another heavily marketed show that premiered on the network last season: "The Event," which opened to just under 11 million viewers and a 3.6 in the demo in September 2010. By week four, "The Event" had lost more than 4 million viewers and almost 40 percent of its 18-49 rating. NBC is certainly hoping against a repeat of that dire scenario, but "Smash" will at least have the benefit of a stronger lead-in and also likely better word of mouth than "The Event" had.

So to answer the question we posed in the headline: One night does not a comeback make, but NBC has to be very happy that both its shows opened well Monday. If the audiences for "The Voice" and "Smash" stick around in the coming weeks, that will at the very least give NBC one or two fewer holes to fill when it comes time to put together a schedule for next season. And if "Smash" remains a steady player, it could be sent out on its own, thereby making room for another show to benefit from "The Voice" as a lead-in.

That's a good ways away, but if NBC is finally going to turn things around, it has to start somewhere.

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For the record: An earlier version of this post misstated the previous series high in adults 18-49 for "The Voice."
Photo/Video credit: NBC