Many of network television’s biggest shows are back for the 2021-2022 TV season, and fall has already delivered some major plot twists, some cast changes, and some very interesting ratings numbers. Even in an age of digital viewing and streaming, TV ratings can determine the futures of series and their odds of surviving to another season with how many people are (and are not) tuning in. Just look at Katey Sagal’s Rebel, cancelled after just one season despite having so much going for it!
So, now that network TV is officially back for the fall season, let’s look at how NCIS is doing in its new time slot, and some other ratings and viewership surprises so far. Let’s start at the beginning!
How NCIS Was Affected (Or Not) By The New Time Slot
NCIS changed time slots for the very first time for Season 19. CBS moved it to Mondays at 9 p.m. ET this fall after spending 18 seasons on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., to free up a full night for the three FBI shows. (More on those later.) The move could have meant a big drop in ratings and viewership for the veteran show, especially coupled with reports about Mark Harmon’s status.
But that wasn’t the case with the September 20 premiere of Season 19 in the first night of big fall premieres. TV Insider reports that in Live+Same day numbers (a.k.a. the size of the audience who watched live), 8.15 million people tuned in to the Season 19 premiere. That’s a relatively small drop from the Season 18 finale audience of 8.5 million. Veteran shows usually lose some viewers from one season to the next, so NCIS dropping 0.35 million doesn’t mean the sky is falling.
And when we look at Live+3 day numbers (the totals after three days to account for delayed viewing) from the whole of the week of September 20, NCIS’ total is even better. THR reports that NCIS added the most viewers after three days, rising by 38% to hit 11.6 million viewers and a final rating in the 18-49 demographic of 1.06. NCIS was the only scripted series for the whole week to hit 10 million viewers, so the premiere got Season 19 off to a strong start on Mondays. Who knew?
The FBIs Take Over Tuesdays With Mixed Results
For the night of Tuesday, September 21, I’m sticking with CBS, with the huge change of FBI taking NCIS’ longtime 8 p.m. slot and anchoring a full night of FBI action, similar to what NBC has with One Chicago Wednesdays. (More on One Chicago in a bit.) CBS viewers got FBI Season 4 at 8 p.m., FBI: Most Wanted Season 3 at 9 p.m., and new series FBI: International at 10 p.m. And it’s in the grand scheme of all three shows that the numbers get interesting.
The FBIs debuted for the season with a three-part crossover starting with FBI, carrying over into Most Wanted, and finishing with International, but looking at the Live+3 numbers tells an unexpected story. FBI was on top of the three shows with 9.7 million viewers, with Most Wanted very closely behind with 9.63 million viewers, indicating that most viewers were interested enough in the crossover storyline to keep watching through the first two hours. But there was a significant drop for FBI: International, which only hit 8.55 million.
Admittedly, 8.55 million is still a fantastic number for a show, but International’s premiere audience was more than a full million beneath Most Wanted and FBI. And it’s not even a matter of delayed viewing changing the numbers too much, as all three shows grew between 33%-36%. International got off to a strong start, but the three-parter didn’t put it on even footing with the other two shows.
One Chicago Shows Trading Ratings Places
Wednesday of premiere week was unsurprisingly dominated by NBC in scripted dramas thanks to Chicago Med, Chicago Fire, and Chicago P.D. all premiering new seasons on September 22. The three shows generally stay within a point or two of each other in the ratings for Live+Same day, so (via TVLine) Med scoring 0.7 and Fire and P.D. both hitting 0.8 tracked, especially with Fire and P.D. having major cliffhangers to resolve. It was, however, surprising that P.D. beat Med in the live ratings.
The live viewership was only mildly out of the norm with Med’s 6.5 million at 8 p.m., Fire’s 7 million at 9 p.m., and P.D. coming in third with 6.4 million at 10 p.m. The race for #1 live audience size on Chicago Wednesdays is often tighter between Fire and Med, but again, there was that Fire cliffhanger. And P.D. is reliably in third with audience size, as expected... until we look at delayed viewership, that is! That’s where things get exciting for Chicago P.D.
P.D. ultimately received the second highest audience boost in Live+3 of premiere week, jumping 2.9 million and 44% to hit 9.44 million. It was still below Chicago Fire with a delayed 9.76 million, but Fire only jumped 38%. And Chicago Med comes in third after three days with 9 million viewers, gaining only 2.2 million and 32%.
And that’s not even all! In the ratings for Live+3, P.D. jumped a whopping 56% to hit 1.36, beating Fire’s 33% jump to 1.25 and Med’s 38% boost to 1.12. All of these numbers actually play into my theory that Chicago P.D. has a lot of fans who simply would rather not stay up until 11 p.m. watching TV and prefer to watch on delay.
Grey's Anatomy And Station 19 Vs. The Law & Orders
The biggest competition on Thursday nights didn’t all premiere in the same week, with NBC’s Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Organized Crime both launching new seasons on September 23, while ABC’s Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy both premiered on September 30, so we can only compare Live+Same numbers from September 30 (via TVLine) at this point. But they sure do paint an interesting picture.
Station 19’s Season 5 premiere was up against the third episode of SVU Season 23 at 8 p.m. ET. Station 19 scored 4.8 million viewers and 0.7 rating, edging out SVU in the viewers with its 4.7 million but losing to SVU with its 0.8 rating. The Season 18 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy at 9 p.m. was lower than Station 19 in audience size, with 4.6 million, but equal with an 0.7 rating. Organized Crime (which aired two episodes back-to-back) attracted 4.3 million/0.7 at 9 p.m. and 4.1 million/0.7 at 10 p.m.
As somebody who fully expected the season premieres of Station 19/Grey’s Anatomy to beat non-premieres of SVU and Organized Crime in both categories, the two Law & Order shows winning in the ratings is a big deal. Plus, the differences in viewership weren’t that significant. Admittedly, SVU and Organized Crime were teaming up for a much-hyped crossover, but beating premiere episodes is a big deal.
If all of these ratings from the biggest premieres of fall so far are any indication, it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the numbers moving forward. Plus, there are still a number of shows that have yet to debut, and you can find them on our 2021 fall TV premiere schedule.
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Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).