For the first time in nine long years, NBC has emerged victorious from the November sweeps. The last time this happened was in 2003, when the Peacock network was bolstered by ratings powerhouses such as Friends, ER, and The West Wing.
Since the beginning of the 2012 fall season, NBC has been dominant in the television ratings and that trend continued in the traditional November sweeps period, which opened on October 25 and will end tomorrow. In a conference call on Tuesday, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt was understandably ecstatic about the news. "This is the first time we've been this happy in a long time," he said today. "It is possible to move the needle. There is a spring in our step."
Following up on the monumental success of the network's coverage of the Summer Olympics, NBC was the only network to post gains in the all-important Adults 18–49 and Live+Same Day 18–49 categories. Shooting up to #1 from its fourth-place finish in 2011, the Peacock improved by 17% with an average 2.8 rating in comparison to last year's 2.4. Last year's winner, FOX, dropped to third place, down 26% from 3.1 to 2.4, while CBS remained at #2 despite dropping to 2.4 from 2.8, a loss of 14%. Bringing up the rear, ABC fell 12% from 2.5 to 2.2 in the demographic.
With the loss of top-rated programs such as The Voice, Revolution, and Sunday Night Football over the next three months, a drop-off is inevitable. "Starting out this strong heading into what we know is going to be a tougher winter feels like a big accomplishment," said Greenblatt. "I know we're going to drop accordingly without The Voice and Revolution, and obviously there are some big competitive things coming with American Idol and the Super Bowl. … In March, we'll be back in the game."
As for midseason plans, Greenblatt wasn't sure how the Silence of the Lambs prequel series Hannibal, starring Mads Mikkelsen as the titular cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter, would fit into the Peacock's schedule. "The question will be do we have room for it, to launch it in April before the season ends or should we hold it to the summer," he explained. "A bunch of things have to play out before we can make that determination."
Greenblatt also noted that NBC is developing original digital content related to its breakout freshman hit Revolution to maintain interest in the show during the winter break. Looking ahead to 2013, the executive concluded, "We're feeling a sense of relief and excitement about what is to come."