'The Voice' starts strong; what does NBC do if it stays that way?
First, the numbers: The music competition's two-hour premiere averaged 11.8 million viewers and a 5.1 rating in the adults 18-49 demographic. The 18-49 figure is the best for any series debut in more than a year, going back to the post-Super Bowl premiere of "Undercover Boss" in February 2010.
"The Voice" also grew in each of its first three half-hours -- a good sign that viewers were sticking around -- before leveling off in its last 30 minutes, where it lost a handful of viewers (12.27 million at 10 to 12.06 million at 10:30) but maintained its 18-49 rating (5.4 in both half-hours). It posted big improvements over NBC's season averages in both the 9 and 10 o'clock hours.
The network also made what looks like a wise scheduling decision by debuting the series well after the early hype of "American Idol's" season died down -- and on a night when CBS aired a slate of reruns. There may not be a huge crossover audience between "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "The Voice," but starting against somewhat softer competition doesn't hurt.
Now, that high-class problem: Let's make the (still rather large) assumption that "The Voice" holds most of its premiere audience for the next several weeks and into the summer portion of its run. That would in turn probably mean that the show gets another season.
So if you're NBC, badly in need of hit shows, where do you put it? A late spring/summer run for Season 2 seems almost like a waste: Summer, with "America's Got Talent" as its anchor, is arguably one of the healthier parts of NBC's schedule and doesn't really need the help.
It also seems unlikely that the network would hurry another season of the show onto the air in the fall, partly for logistical reasons -- Season 2 would have to start shooting almost before the live-broadcast portion of its first season wrapped -- but also because it's usually good to give the audience a little time to miss a show.
That would leave midseason, and to us, that feels like the right time to slot "The Voice." It probably wouldn't be wise to put it in direct competition with "American Idol," but in success it could serve as a launchpad for other new series. A Tuesday berth leading into some new drama or another comedy block could work well, allowing "The Biggest Loser" -- which has held up reasonably well against "Idol" in the past -- perhaps to migrate to Wednesdays and give NBC a bump over what "Minute to Win It" delivers now.
This could all be rendered moot in the next couple weeks if "The Voice" takes a dive. But if it holds up, we're really curious to see how NBC handles the show going into next season.