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‘Merlin’ Has Soft Premiere, But Still Winner For NBC

British import was bettered by reruns on CBS


It’s not NBC’s next big hit, but the premiere of the BBC series “Merlin” pulled in decent audiences for its two-hour premiere, and was able to shine a light on what is typically a rerun-laden night for this time of year.

“Merlin” averaged a 3.3 rating/6 share, according to Fast National ratings from Nielsen Media Research. If those ratings were to be included in the list of genre network show averages for the 2008-09 season, it would be in the 10th slot, ahead of “Kings” on NBC and behind “Pushing Daisies” on ABC — two shows that were given the ax last season.

However, “Merlin” has different challenges than either of those two shows, plus a some added benefits. First, it’s airing in the summer time when television viewing is greatly reduced. At the same time, NBC didn’t have to produce the show or pay what might be considered full licensing fees to air the show the same way it would if a domestic studio was licensing first-run content to the network.

“Merlin” is technically a rebroadcast product, already airing last year on BBC. Thus the “break-even” rating NBC would have to receive to make broadcasting the show viable is lower than other network shows that have run in the past.

The first episode of “Merlin” earned a 3.4/7, according to Zap2it, 19 percent lower than a “Million Dollar Password” repeat on CBS. It was down 17 percent from its lead-in, which included the U.S. Open as well as “Dateline NBC.”

“Merlin’s” second hour dropped nearly 9 percent to a 3.1/5, finishing nearly 30 percent behind a rerun of “Cold Case” on NBC.

At the same time, “Merlin” did beat a number of popular reruns on other networks including “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” on Fox, as well as the ABC movie “Impact.”

For the night, NBC finished in second place with a 3.3/6 (including a 2.8/5 from “Law & Order: SVU” that closed out NBC’s schedule at 10), behind the 4.6/9 from CBS. ABC was third with a 2.6/5.

When it came to adults 18 to 49, a key advertising demographic, NBC finished second with a 1.4 rating, behind Fox’s 1.5, and almost winning the demo. CBS, despite its high overall ratings, fell to a 1.2 in the demo.

Fast Nationals usually provide a snapshot of what Americans are watching by pulling numbers from the top urban markets that includes both live viewing and same-day timeshifted viewing. A rating point generally represents more than 1.1 million households while the share indicates the percentage of televisions turned on that was tuned to the specific program. These numbers typically shift when final ratings are issued.

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