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Super Bowl, 'Smash' and 'The Voice' Score Big For NBC, But Can We Call It a Comeback?

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Feb 07, 2012 | 12:18pm EST

Smash MarilynsThe perpetual fourth place network, NBC, finally got a piece of that pie with both Sunday night's Super Bowl and subsequent broadcasts of both The Voice and Jimmy Fallon's live Super Bowl special. And then on Monday night, they scored yet again with more of The Voice and the premiere of Smash. NBC hasn't seen these kinds of numbers - outside of Sunday night football - for quite some time.

This is a pretty hefty claim, but don't worry, we've got numbers to back all this up. It's to be expected that the Super Bowl would reach ratings highs, and this year was no exception. The peacock claimed an average of 111.3 million viewers throughout the game. It's a slight increase on Fox's performance last year, which garnered 111 million viewers. It's not much, but it allows NBC to claim the title of most-watched Super Bowl broadcast in U.S. History. That's not bad for a network whose most beloved series can't manage to creep past the four or five million viewer mark. And talk about a killer lead-in -- The Voice premiere benefitted from Super Bowl hangers-on with a whopping 37.6 million viewers, making it the highest rated entertainment program on network television in the last six years.

And even with the 60 percent drop in its second episode, The Voice won the night with a record 17.7 million viewers -- and in an 8:00 p.m. slot no less. Yes, NBC, numbers can really go that high. Not only is it an improvement on last year, but the episode's ratings grew as the night wore on, and looking at the ratings around the networks, CBS is the only one with a sizable dip in viewership. Could it be that NBC is making a comeback -- and one against the CBS behemoth?

It just might be the case. The new series Smash also held its own after The Voice's generous lead-in, nabbing 11.5 million viewers besting stalwart series Hawaii Five-0 and Castle. But television ratings are fickle, so while we're sure NBC execs are popping the bubbly, the next few weeks will seal the network's fate -- at least regarding its latest heavy hitters. Marketing surrounding Smash was almost unavoidable. For the past few weeks, you could not look at a screen (TV, Computer, iPad, those little televisions in the back seats of taxis) without hearing Katharine McPhee singing "Beautiful" and that smooth NBC announcer requesting that we tune in for the Broadway magic on Feb. 6. And then there were the print ads, posters and billboards. Smash has been everywhere, but now that it's here and people have actually tuned in, will they stick around? Perhaps they were just hypnotized by the spinning chairs on The Voice and kept watching as they regained their bearings? But Smash is actually a solid series, and it's got a general appeal that really could capture the hearts of a wide audience.

The bottom line is, the network can catch its breath now that they've got a few fantastic numbers to tout, but a win like this is just the beginning. It's game time, which means the next few weeks will be the litmus test to see if NBC is really turning it around, or if Feb. 5 and Feb. 6 were just a couple of lucky breaks.

Are you impressed with NBC's offerings? Do you think the network is on its way to a bigger audience?

Sources: LA Times, Hollywood Reporter

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