The new year has its first smash-hit TV show — and it’s a weird one.
With a 3.0 Nielsen rating among adults 18-49, Wednesday’s launch of “The Masked Singer” — a celebrity singing game show adapted from a South Korean format — was not just Fox’s highest-rated unscripted debut in more than seven years, excluding post-NFL starts, but the highest-rated unscripted debut on any network in over seven years.
The last series to premiere higher in that genre was also a Fox imported singing competition, “The X Factor” (a 4.4 rating in the advertiser-coveted demographic).
Along with those impressive demo numbers, “The Masked Singer” scored an average of 9.4 million total viewers, according to “Live + Same Day” data from Nielsen.
The Nick Cannon-hosted series — which features famous people entering sing-offs while disguised from head to toe in elaborate costumes to be judged by a studio audience and panelists Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger, Ken Jeong and Robin Thicke — was the top-rated unscripted broadcast over the past two seasons.
That means — with the 9 p.m. show’s above stated 3.0 rating, plus a 12 share — “The Masked Singer” beat the most recent season premieres of NBC’s “The Voice” by 45 percent (2.0/8), ABC’s “American Idol” revival by 26 percent (2.3/9), and NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” by 16 percent (2.5/11).
It was so huge it actually handed its lead-in series highs in both adults 18-49 and total viewers. That’s called being a strong lead-out, and it’s how “Empire” used to help “Rosewood” on the same network on the same night. (Of course, the scripted music-biz drama couldn’t help “Rosewood” enough to not be canceled after just two seasons.)
Speaking of “Empire,” “The Masked Singer” was Fox’s highest-rated debut since the Lee Daniels-created drama premiered in January 2015, excluding post-Super Bowl launches.
The reveal that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was the Hippo (read the explanation here) also gave Fox a primetime-average win over ABC, CBS and NBC combined, with a 2.1 vs. a 2.0.
By the way, these big numbers aren’t even counting some major markets, like Milwaukee, Cleveland, Greensboro, Kansas City, San Diego and St. Louis, as Charter and a dozen Fox affiliates are currently locked in a nasty carriage-fee battle.
“The Masked Singer” was also the No. 1 most-social primetime program episode across all of television last night.
Now, before we wrap this up, let’s reveal how Fox stacked up against the other broadcast nets in Nielsen numbers, both last year and this season, before “The Masked Singer” entered our lives.
Below are the “most current” season-to-date primetime rankings, which count a week’s worth of delayed viewing where available.
Adult 18-49 Rating:
1. NBC: 2.1
2. Fox: 1.9
3. CBS: 1.4
4. ABC: 1.2
1. CBS: 8.9 million
2. NBC: 8.8 million
3. Fox: 6.7 million
4. ABC: 5.6 million
And here are the completed 2018 calendar-year primetime averages:
Adult 18-49 Rating:
1. NBC: 1.8
2. (tie) Fox: 1.3
2. (tie) CBS: 1.3
4. ABC: 1.2
1. NBC: 7.8 million
2. CBS: 7.4 million
3. ABC: 5.3 million
4. Fox: 4.4 million