Pitch Pays Off: '30 Rock' Enjoys Big Season Opener

The blizzard of print ads, TV marketing, PR and big viral spin paid off: NBC's "30 Rock" season premiere episode posted its best ratings ever--earning a Nielsen Media Research preliminary 4.1 rating/10 share among 18-49 viewers in its Thursday night opener. That's 21% better than its last season premiere a year ago, which came in with a 3.4/9 among 18-49 viewers.

Many critics credit the show's added visibility to Tina Fey's impersonations of Sarah Palin, which not only ran on special "SNL: Weekend Update" shows, but yielded tens of millions of views on the Internet.

Plus, it didn't hurt that the show was running at 9:30 p.m. behind NBC's big Thursday series "The Office," which grabbed an even healthier 4.7/12 at 9 p.m. That 9:30 p.m. spot has been the time period for the special "SNL: Weekend Update" over the past several weeks. Last week, "Weekend Update" earned a similar 4.0/9 to what "30 Rock" did on Thursday.

Better still for "30 Rock" was that it was No. 1 in 18-34 viewers with a 5.4/15--better than the two big shows in the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time period, CBS' "CSI" and ABC's "Grey's Anatomy."



NBC's good news continued at 10 p.m., when "ER" regained the No. 1 spot among 18-49 viewers with a 3.4/9, well ahead of two rookie shows: CBS' "Eleventh Hour" at 2.9/8 and ABC's "Life on Mars" at 2.7/8. "ER" was also up 6% from the previous week among 18-49 viewers.

Still, even with this splurge, NBC ended in third place for the night, with a 3.4/9 among 18-49 viewers--up from a 3.2/8. NBC was No. 1 among younger 18-34 viewers for the night, with a 3.2/10.

CBS scored the best results on Thursday--although down to a 3.9/10 from a 4.3/11 the week before. "Survivor: Gabon" won the 8 p.m. time period again with a steady 4.2/12. "CSI" earned a 4.7/12, down 16%.

ABC was in second place with a 3.6/10--about the same as a week ago, where it earned a 3.6/9. "Grey's Anatomy" regained its top spot over "CSI," earning a 5.6/14, which was slightly up from a 5.4/13. "Life on Mars" at 10 p.m. improved to a 2.7/8 from a 2.4/6.

CW's "Smallville" and "Supernatural" kept the network steady with a 1.6/4 among 18-49 and a 1.6/5 versus 18-34 viewers, similar to last week.

Fox had the night off--of sorts. It ran a repeat of "Kitchen Nightmares" at 8 p.m. and then an original of the show at 9 p.m., earning a 1.6/4 for the night. CW had the same ratings. Fox kept the night open for the World Series, which ended Wednesday.

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