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March 31, 2013

Can 'The Voice' carry NBC to a ratings turnaround?

The funeral march is over for NBC: “The Voice” is back.

The singing contest returned Monday night with two new judges, Shakira and Usher, and the kind of ratings that hit-bereft NBC hasn’t seen much of lately. An average of 13.6 million total viewers tuned in, making NBC competitive with ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” (14.5 million), according to Nielsen. Last fall, “The Voice” premiered its Season 3 to 12.3 million.

And those results don’t tell the best side of the story for NBC. Unlike “DWTS,” “The Voice” has a relatively youthful audience, so it was the clear winner for the night among viewers ages 18 to 49 (4.8 rating / 13 share).

But does all this mean that NBC executives can rest easy on the Universal lot? Um, no.

The network kept its fall drama hit “Revolution” on hiatus for months as it got “The Voice” ready for return. And now it looks like all that waiting didn’t pay off: On Monday, “Revolution” seemed surprisingly weak, with 7 million total viewers and just barely half of “Voice’s” young-adult audience. Much will depend on how the post-apocalyptic drama looks once the DVR numbers come in next month, but the early signs aren’t exactly thrilling.

Moreover, “The Voice” amounts to only three hours of programming per week — leaving NBC with another 19 hours to fill. And at this point, too many of those hours are filled with underperforming shows.

But at least NBC is getting some decent numbers back on the board again. Every turnaround has to start somewhere.

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