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PASADENA, CA–In Canada, The Firm got off to a so-so start. In the United States, it was sacked by football.
The two-hour pilot, which aired Sunday from 9 to 11 p.m., opened to an overnight, average audience of 1,075,000 viewers in Canada. Less promising for Global is that only 390,000 of those viewers were in the A25-54 demo.
Global’s PR dept. tried to spin that into a win, pointing out in a release that it beat CTV imports Desperate Housewives and Pan Am in the timeslot, but a) CTV’s Sunday night schedule was delayed due a football playoff game overrun with 1,655,000 watching another miracle comeback for Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow and b) it’s not much of a boast when you beat two shows heading for cancellation.
Global, a partner with NBC on the Mississauga, Ont.-produced law drama, heavily promoted the series premiere. Yet The Simpsons at 8 p.m. drew an even bigger audience (1,088.000 in 2+ and way more viewers in the demo).
NBC did not get the lift they were looking for with The Firm, which opened Stateside to 6.4 million viewers–the Peacock network’s lowest rated regular season drama debut ever. The series was blindsided by the 18-minute CBS Tebow Time delay, which scrambled the rest of the schedule and sacked The Firm’s chances of finding an opening. The NFL playoff game drew an astonishing 41.89 million CBS viewers according to preliminary Nielsen reports.
NBC’s dilemma is that it ordered 22 episodes of The Firm, an extrordinarily large order these days for a mid-season replacement series. They took that risk, NBC Chairman Robert Greenblatt told me Friday at NBC’s press tour session, because much of the cost of the series was absorbed by international partnership deals. Toronto-based eOne partnered with Sony Pictures Television and Paramount Pictures on the deal, with Sony muscling early launches for the series across Latin America, Asia and Central Europe. “They came to us with that show fully financed around the world, with Canada being the key to it,” said Greenblatt, who was able to order 22 episodes for what NBC would normally pay for 13.
Still, as Greenblatt also said, “it’s not just about financing–you have to find the right show.” NBC has to be hoping the Live+3 and Live+7 numbers show a lot of people watched football but banked The Firm in order to live with what seemed like a good deal.