May 19, 2022

Media Decoder Blog: ‘Smash’ Ratings Hit a New Low on NBC

Can “Smash” stay on the air? The enormously publicized — and enormously expensive — NBC drama crashed to a new ratings low Tuesday night, hitting a level that only a few weeks ago caused another NBC drama, “Do No Harm,” to be yanked off the air.

On Tuesday, “Smash” pulled in only 2.6 million viewers and a remarkably low 0.7 rating in the audience that NBC sells to advertisers, viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. Not only was that the worst number recorded Tuesday by any show on network television, it is exactly the same rating that pushed “Do No Harm” over the ratings cliff.

That medical drama won the unfortunate distinction of scoring the lowest ratings for its premiere of any drama in network history; now “Smash” has sunk to that level.

But “Smash” may yet survive for several reasons, beginning with its close association with Bob Greenblatt, the top NBC Entertainment executive, who brought the show with him from Showtime when he joined NBC. More significant, perhaps, is that NBC has an enormous amount already invested in “Smash.”

The show has completed all 17 episodes it had scheduled this year. At a cost of about $4 million an episode, NBC has already spent about $70 million on the show. To pull it off the air now, after just four of those completed episodes have been broadcast, would mean NBC would have no chance to recoup the rest of its investment.

But NBC did remove “Do No Harm” despite having paid for 13 completed episodes of that show. (NBC may broadcast the remaining 11 at some later date, but at a much lower advertising rate.)

There is also evidence that NBC still believes “Smash” does not belong in the same category as “Do No Harm.’ Last week, the network’s public relations department pointed out that “Smash” may have a small audience, but it is among the most affluent audiences in television. That makes its small audience a bit more attractive to advertisers.

This week, the account of the abysmal ratings for “Smash” included the note that the Broadway drama is still heavily viewed on a delayed basis, with last week’s rating growing by 66 percent after three days of delayed viewing, rising to a 1.5 rating from a 0.9. Three days’ worth of added viewing is what advertisers will pay for, so “Smash” looks somewhat better financially when that accounting is included.

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