'Nashville' Debuts to Strong Ratings
'Nashville' Debuts to Strong Ratings

The ABC show "Nashville" scored some of the highest ratings of any rookie program this fall season, but fans of the drama didn't instantly log on to iTunes after the premiere's conclusion on Oct. 10.

Big Machine released three songs from the pilot episode of "Nashville" and 12 hours after the show's premiere concluded, the tracks were Nos. 7, 22 and 45 on iTunes' country singles chart.

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Sam Palladio and Clare Bowen's version of "If I Didn't Know Better" was the top seller, moving about 7,000 units by midday on Oct. 11, while Hayden Panettiere's "Love Like Mine" and Charles Esten's "Back Home" performed almost as well, selling a combined 5,000 downloads, according to industry sources. Based on those initial sales, forecasters estimate the three songs could sell 30,000-40,000 units through the end of Nielsen SoundScan's tracking week on Oct. 14.

Shows that sell music after each episode generally make the bulk of their sales within 48 hours of each airing. In the case of NBC's "The Voice," it had a two-fold benefit: By airing on Monday nights, new songs from the competition weren't competing with the Tuesday releases and most viewers tuned in to watch the program live. Dramas tend to get a boost in ratings when DVR viewing is factored in.

Attempting to sell original songs can be a challenge, as NBC and Columbia discovered early on with "Smash" in February. Two such tracks were released, as the pilot was streamed online a month before its airdate. Both saw negligible sales results. After the premiere aired, "Let Me Be Your Star" sold 12,000 downloads and "The National Pastime" moved 3,000, according to SoundScan.

"Nashville" delivered decent ratings in its opening stanza. According to Nielsen's Fast Nationals, which cover only live viewing in the overnight markets, 9 million people tuned in to watch the pilot at 10 p.m. on Oct. 10.

Nearly 3.6 million of those viewers are in the 18-49 age group, the demographic coveted by advertisers. That's a good omen for "Nashville" as it won the hour for ABC over CBS' "CSI," which had 10.6 million total viewers, and NBC's "Chicago Fire" with 6.4 million.

"Nashville" did see a drop in the audience during its second half, but that could have been a tune-in factor: The country music soap opera and the Chicago firefighters series are two of the most highly promoted and best-reviewed new series, and their premieres were up against one another.

TV networks are concerned about how a show compares with its predecessor in the same time slot. "Nashville" was 15% below the debut of "Revenge" last fall. That dip was also seen in the lead-in show to "Nashville"-"Modern Family," one of the most popular shows on TV.

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