The caveat offered by all the networks is that nothing can really be determined about a show’s performance until delayed viewing is counted — and each network now sends out projections of a show’s numbers seven days down the road. Shows will often improve by as much as 50 percent when delayed viewing is added.
But executives at several networks conceded that they examine the first night’s results closely because they are still strong indicators of the general strength of shows. The executives in Los Angeles still wake up at 5 a.m. to check the first numbers that arrive from the country’s biggest cities. They know the deal: Shows that open strongly still have the best chance at success; those that open limply almost never survive.