Dancing with the Stars went through a tumultuous hiatus ahead of Season 29, with former hosts Tom Bergeron and Erin Andrews being fired, and America's Next Top Model vet Tyra Banks taking over both as a host and an executive producer. It doesn't appear as if the hosting changes did any damage to the show's reputation, as the season premiere ended up dwarfing everything else that aired on Monday night, and gave Dancing with the Stars some of its biggest numbers in years.
Like Justina Machado and Skai Jackson, Dancing with the Stars scored the highest numbers of the night across all of network TV and beyond. (Both Machado and Jackson landed 21s from the judges with their respective teammates Sasha Farber and Alan Bersten.) The Season 29 premiere was watched by 8.28 million people during its first hour, and 7.91 million viewers during the second hour, which averaged out to around 8.1 million. In comparison, the first chunk of American Ninja Warrior was the third most-watched hour of the night with 3.19 million viewers.
Dancing with the Stars' premiere ratings in the key demographics also towered above the competition. Both hours logged a 1.3 demo rating for the all-important 18-49 age group, and a 1.8 rating for adults 25-54. To make another American Ninja Warrior comparison, NBC's athletic competition series was again in third place with a 0.5 demo rating for 18- to 49-year-olds.
Admittedly, Monday's primetime schedule didn't feature a whole lot of competition that would have torn audiences away from Dancing with the Stars. NBC's American Ninja Warrior, CBS' Love Island and The CW's Whose Line and Penn & Teller were airing alongside CBS sitcom repeats and Fox's airing of 2016's Patriot Day.
Still, Dancing with the Stars' overall viewership was an improvement over its Season 28 premiere in September 2019 – 8.1 million > 7.8 million – and actually matched the show's biggest audience totals since the Season 26 finale. When it comes to the key demographic stats, Season 29's premiere earned the highest rating since the Season 25 finale in 2017.
There are lots of factors that could explain Dancing with the Stars' boost in the ratings, even beyond the lack of Monday night spotlights. For one, it's one of relatively few network TV staples that was able to make its planned Fall 2020 premiere. Many scripted shows are just getting back into the filming process after having to adjust for COVID safety protocols, the same way DWTS and other unscripted shows have. As well, fans no doubt wanted to tune in to see how Tyra Banks would do in her first episode hosting the long-running series. Not to mention Britt Stewart earning her spot as Dancing with the Stars' first Black female pro dancer.
And let's not discount this motley crew of stars putting their talents on display (or not), including Backstreet Boys member AJ McLean, The Bachelorette vet Kaitlyn Bristowe, Cheer star Monica Aldama, Catfish's Nev Schulman and plenty of other entertainers and athletes. One of the wild cards this season is definitely Tiger King subject Carole Baskin, whose involvement prompted an unexpected response from the family of her still-missing husband.
With the competition only just getting started, spend the next few months with Dancing with the Stars, which airs Tuesday nights on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for more coverage, and head to our Fall TV 2020 premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are on the way soon.