ABC had to hold the Nashville premiere till week three of the fall 2012 season, due to a week two presidential debate. So it had a weaker lead-in (4.9) than it would've had during premiere week when Modern Family had a 5.5. And Nashville opened with 8.93 million viewers and a 2.8 demo rating. This seemed pretty similar to the year-ago opener of Revenge (3.3 with a 6.2 lead-in), a show that had gone on to become a significant success.
Beyond premiere week, it became clear that the heavily-lauded Nashville was not quite on Revenge's level. It plummeted to a 2.0 in week two when Suburgatory replaced Modern in the 9:30 slot, and hung around 2.0 for most of the rest of the fall. It then fell into the high-1's for most eps in the second half of the season. It ended up doing roughly 15% worse in Plus than season one of Revenge, which was a bit of a disappointment considering its pedigree, but still not a bad occupant historically.
In season two, Nasvhille did what serialized dramas often do: it took another significant step down. It cracked 2.0 only on season premiere night (when it had another Modern Family lead-in) and dropped into the bottom half of the 1's for the second half of the season.
Rumors abounded that ABC wanted a reduced order for season three, but Nashville returned to the Wednesday 10/9c hour for the full season. And it pulled off a bit of an upset by stabilizing rather well in season three. Much of that probably owed to the lead-in, as Black-ish was a good bit stronger at 9:30 than other Modern Family lead-outs. But it was still enough to get Nashville a surprise fourth full season in the Wednesday 10/9c hour.
The Season Four Dip
But it became pretty clear early in season four that the days of stability were over for Nashville. It spent most of the fall in the very low-1's, and dropped below 1.0 for the first time in its two December episodes. Following a long hiatus, it returned to a 0.9 in March and never found a 1.0 again. ABC had a generally awful season, so it wasn't that much weaker than a number of other in-contention dramas, but the veteran Nashville lost out on renewal.
It seemed like that'd be the end of the Nashville story, but the Lionsgate studio found it another home a few weeks after the season ended: on the Country Music Television cable channel, where it'll get at least another 22 episodes. It's worth wondering if this could be a situation like The Game on BET, where it's a better fit and higher priority here than it ever was on the initial network. I don't buy that it's lining up for a Game-esque explosion; Nashville is coming from a bigger platform, wasn't treated nearly as badly on that platform, and it's not the syndication staple that The Game had been on BET. But there may be enough positives here to make it a success story, especially by CMT's standards.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
The War of 18-49 chronicles the ratings history of veteran primetime series. For more, see the Index.