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NBC’s ‘Rock Center’ Fails to Rock the Ratings In Debut

As predicted by Brian Williams and NBC News president Steve Capus, the debut of NBC’s “Rock Center” last night failed to light up the ratings needle. Williams said last week “I know we’re going to get crushed,” and it seems he was prescient.

“Rock Center” averaged just over four million viewers at 10 PM last night according to preliminary Nationals from Nielsen. That is roughly half of what Williams averages at 6:30 PM each weekday on “Nightly News.” By comparison, CBS’ “Hawaii 5-0″ averaged 10.3 million total viewers, and ABC’s “Castle” averaged 13 million viewers. Final numbers could be slightly different, but the outcome is unlikely to be affected.

To be certain “Rock Center” was not helped by its lead-in, “The Sing Off.” The NBC singing competition averaged even fewer total viewers, with 3.88 million, while ABC had “Dancing With the Stars” and CBS had its Monday comedy block to boost the 10 PM shows.

In the two key demos, “Rock Center” also fared poorly. In adults 18-49, the key demo for entertainment programs, the program did a 1.0 rating/3 share, far behind CBS and ABC. In adults 25-54, the key news demo, the program drew a 1.3 rating/3 share, also a distant third.

Update: As some commenters have noted, Halloween may have led to lower TV viewing across the board. In addition, a great “Monday Night Football” game on ESPN likely stole away some viewers that could have otherwise tuned in.

The good news is that NBC News does not seem concerned with the ratings, at least for now. In a conference call with reporters, Capus said “I don’t pretend to think that we’re gonna move the needle in the ratings when we come out of the gate,” arguing that NBC was in this for the long haul. Indeed, “Rock Center” has a three-year commitment from Comcast. Now NBC needs to work on finding a voice for the program, as well as a more permanent timeslot. Once mid-season rolls around, “Rock Center” will be moved to another part of the schedule, and hit shows are typically not shifted to a new date and time every six months.

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