|Despite erratic ratings across the brand this season, viewers seem to be ready to welcome in a new member to the "Law & Order" family. The early ratings returns for "Law & Order: Trial by Jury" are mostly encouraging for NBC.|
As part of a week in which more than half of its programming life-up was filled with Dick Wolf-produced "L&O" procedurals, NBC launched "Trial by Jury" with a Thursday (March 3) sneak, before moving it into its regular home on Friday.
With a healthy assist from "The Apprentice," Thursday night's "Trial by Jury" premiered to an audience of 17.3 million viewers, slightly ahead of the season average for "ER" in the same time period. However, the show's 6.2 rating among adults 18-49 was more than 25 percent lower than the demographic figures averaged by "ER" and it had the advantage of facing a "Without a Trace" repeat.
Moving to the much slower Friday night, "Trial by Jury" still pulled in 14.4 million viewers, easily winning its time period despite CBS' decision to program a "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" repeat as competition. The viewer decline from Thursday was moderate, but the adults 18-49 drop left "Trial" with a 4.1 rating.
That 4.1 rating, though, represented NBC's best non-Olympic performance in the time period since Oct. 2003 and improved on the season average (posted mostly by "Medical Investigation") by 37 percent. Cynics might note, though, that when it premiered in January, CBS' "Numb3rs" scored a 4.9 demographic rating in the time period and drew 15.3 million viewers only to see that audience dwindle on a near-weekly basis.
The last "Law & Order" installment to air originals on Friday was "Special Victims Unit," which regularly delivered better than a 5.0 demographic rating between its 2000 premiere and its shift to Tuesday nights.