CBS’ premiere of Hunted after football Sunday had record ratings: it was the most-watched TV show premiere this season in key demographic groups. That made it, according to a CBS press release, “television’s biggest reality series premiere in adults 18-49 since Sept. 21, 2011,” when The X Factor debuted on Fox.
That seemed like it’d lived up to CBS president Glenn Geller’s promise that he’d found “the next big reality hit.” But its first episode in its regular timeslot lost a lot of those initial viewers.
First, on Sunday, Hunted’s premiere had an average of 11.83 million viewers, according to CBS, and among viewers 18 to 49, 25 to 54, and 18 to 34, had “the highest rated debut in these demos of any program on any network this season.” It had the second-highest number of total viewers for a premiere this season (CBS’ Bull was first).
That’s super-impressive for a reality TV show in 2017, when broadcast networks have struggled to find a hit. That was definitely impressive performance.
Alas, on Wednesday, the show lost 66 percent of its viewers ages 18 to 49 and more than half of its total viewers, as 5.48 million people watched.
That drop-off is disappointing but probably expected—because the big premiere benefitted from its lead-in. Former network executive Preston Beckman, who goes by “Masked Scheduler,” analyzed the ratings on Screener this way:
“Shows are what they are, and no amount of hype after a big football games is going to change their performance when installed in their regular time period. That was true last night with Hunted, which I thought did OK in the Wednesday slot and, in fact, improved in the second hour. Verdict is out on its long-term viability but I honestly do not think CBS expected the show to retain most of that 4+ 18-49 rating. “
As he wrote, its long-term prospects are up in the air. If it stays where it was last night, that’s decent. If it drops more, that’s not great. And it doesn’t have a lot of time to win people over: Hunted has already aired three of its eight episodes—next week, we’ll be halfway through the season.