Ratings: Once Upon a Time Enchants 12.8 Million Viewers, Tops All Non-Sports Programming

Bippity Boppity Boo! ABC’s Once Upon a Time worked its magic on Nielsen households, premiering to 12.8 million total viewers while scoring a robust 3.9 demo rating. That translates into Sunday night’s most-watched and highest-rated non-sports programming, opposite NBC football and Fox’s World Series Game 4 coverage.

Once‘s tallies represent almost double what Extreme Makeover: Home Edition last did in the Sundays-at-8 slot. In fact, it’s ABC’s biggest audience in the time period with regular programming since March 2008 and its best 18-49 performance there in three years.

Reader Poll: Did Once Upon a Time Works Its Magic On You?

Even factoring in Sunday Night Football and the World Series, Once was Sunday’s second-most watched of all programs, and it matched baseball for the No. 2 ranking in demo delivery. Once stands as this TV season’s highest-rated drama debut, joining ABC’s Revenge in the Top 2.

Elsewhere on Sunday night:

* Sunday Night Football‘s presentation of a record-setting blowout waned every half hour to average 11.24 million total viewers and a 4.6 rating, plunging 30 percent week-to-week. The World Series Game 4 (13.5 mil/3.9) was up 17 and 23 percent from Game 3.

* Opposite sports and Once, The Amazing Race (9.9 mil/2.7) held steady and even drew a few extra eyeballs.

* In the 9 o’clock hour, a highly entertaining episode of The Good Wife (9.6 mil/2.0) dipped 5 percent. Desperate Housewives (9.22 mil/3.1) used its shiny new lead-in to notch gains of 11 and 7 percent.

* CSI: Miami (9.8 mil/2.1) was down about 10 percent. ABC’s fluctuating Pan Am enjoyed the last sprinkling of Once pixie dust, holding steady at 5.8 mil and a fourth-place 1.8 rating.

What were you watching on Sunday night?

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  1. Michael says:

    Wow. Quite the older-skewing show. (Or really younger skewing, I reckon Once is a show families can watch with their little ones.)

    • Family show the entire family can love! says:

      I LOVED this show!!!! I can’t be more happy, but people need to keep watching it LIVE and not on TIVO so they can make more and more shows and this hopeful and entertaining show doesn’t go to the wayside like some other great shows.

      • Kathy says:

        If you’re not part of a Nielsen family, it doesn’t mater how you watch it — you’re not being counted. So you might as well watch it on your own schedule.

    • CJ says:

      A lot of people were very interested in it, and all the hype seems to have paid off. The real challenge, of course, will be how it holds up in the coming weeks. Shows like this tend to see their initial audience trickle away. If the trickle is too large or goes on too long, they don’t make it to a second season. This one sounds fairly fresh though–it might have a chance. And if it succeeds, it might move an hour later next season, which I suspect might make a better home for it.

  2. Sally says:

    Yay for Once Upon A Time! I really like the pilot and can’t wait for the next episode!

  3. Andy says:

    no… please don’t tell me it’s true… it can’t be… who watched it? 12 year old girls?!

  4. Jamie says:

    Highest rated ABC drama of the season? Inc. veterans?

  5. Rebecca says:

    Wow, better than I dared hope for against strong competition. I hope the show can hold a high number next week. I really like it!

  6. Chad says:

    I thought it was pretty decent…some cringeworthy acting moments, but definitely an interesting concept. I’ll keep watching.

    • Hillary says:

      The only time I really cringed was when Snow was scream-crying because she had to let her baby go. There were a few cheesy parts though. I still loved it!

  7. Carrie says:

    I’m glad it did so well, it was really enjoyable! And for the record I’m a 30 year old woman, not a 12 year old girl :p

  8. Sarah says:

    It was quite enjoyable. It has an inventive plot considering all fantasy these days is centered around vampires, werewolves, zombies, etc. Fairy tales is a nice new norm that hasn’t been broken in. I think the ratings might go down after the pilot a bit, but it starting out at 12.8 million is quite a surprise. I’m sure between this and Grimm on NBC, this one will survive even if it loses some viewers over time. I’m certain Grimm will fail as it’s up against two other successful cult genre shows that are already set with devoted followers (Fringe and Supernatural). Not to mention that one is premiering on a Friday while the fanbase for the two I previously mentioned followed from when they were both on Thursdays. This is a great timeslot, too. I don’t watch anything else at 7PM on Sundays so I’m glad I can watch and enjoy before the much darker fare of Dexter, Homeland, and The Walking Dead.

    PS I am a 21 year old lady so I’m in that demo…you know…if I actually had a Nielsen box and counted.

    • Dean says:

      I agree about your theory. Grimm will tank and Once has a chance for season 2. Going against two cult favorites is never going to be easy. And I watch both those shows – Supernatural and Fringe! I don’t think I will watch Grimm. Once had a great pilot btw. I hope the ratings keep up.

    • Michael Sacal says:

      Grimm is Supernatural but with cops…

  9. Michael Sacal says:

    I think that the ratings would have been higher if ABC hadn’t released the first episode online. See what happened to the second episode of Tru Blod.

    • Mia says:

      I thought that too when I was watching the pilot online. Then yesterday I found myself posting about it to FB prior to the show’s normal time. I think that was what ABC was going for. People getting their friends to watch.

  10. GK says:

    Wow! Didn’t expect OUAT to have such an awesome premiere rating. I really enjoyed the pilot. This show is something new among dozens of vampire, werewolf and zombie shows. Definitely gonna watch the next episode.

  11. RAGGEDT says:

    One of the most popular graphic novel series of the last few years is DC Comics’ FABLES — to which Once Upon A Time owes a heck of a lot. I think ABC (and NBC, given the upcoming “Grimm”) saw there was a ready-made audience for a fairy-tales based show that could appeal to all ages. Looks like they guessed right.

    • CJ says:

      Perhaps, but if every single person who ever touched a graphic novel watched the show, it still wouldn’t make a good national broadcast network audience.

  12. Amanda says:

    I’m so happy it did well in the ratings. I loved the pilot & can’t wait to see more. I love that we are going to get the backstories of the fairytale characters.

  13. Franko says:

    I though it was entertaining. I’ll definitely check back on the new episodes. Too bad The Good Wife has such a bad rating, I still hope it will be renewed for a fourth and final season.

    • Alicia says:

      Ugh, I know, though I’d hope for at least 5. The Good Wife was PHENOMENAL last night–hell, it’s always great, yet CBS is strangling it with that sh-tty time slot. It’s shed like 3 million viewers from last season even though the show is getting stronger; wtf CBS…

  14. BRJericho7 says:

    29 year old male and I will be checking it out. ABC sure is speaking to me this year. Love Castle, Last Man Standing. Revenge has got me hookd, and hopefully OnceUponaTime, when I get to it tomorrow

  15. Mel says:

    Lisa Edelstein is better than JMO!!!

    • hollie says:

      Maybe but Morrison’s show last night had more viewers and a much better demo. I must say I am surprised Edelstein guest spots have done nothing for TGW’s ratings. Since her arrival overall viewers are down 13% and in the key demo down 9%. Maybe the ratings would have slipped anyway but Edelstein appearance does not appear to have got new viewers tuning in.

    • Teresa says:

      In what skewed universe is Lisa Edelstein better than Jennifer Morrison? Jennifer is class personified and she did a spectacular job as the a** kicking Emma Swan. Go back to your home under a bridge, you troll.

    • Teresa says:

      Crawl back under a bridge you troll.

    • pat says:

      gosto mais da Lisa mas desejo sucesso pra Jennifer e Lisa ,ambas foram desvalorizadas em Housem.d, espero Lisa no elenco fixo em T.G.W e jennifer muito sucesso !!!!

  16. Miriam says:

    Matt Should I be worry for The Good Wife’s Ratings

  17. Julie says:

    It just surprises me how many people watches TV on a Sunday night (hehe!)
    I adore this show so much! I’m glad that the ratings speak that way and I do hope that they will remain just as strong. The story is very interesting and I cannot wait to find out more!

  18. courtney says:

    once upon a time is amazing. :)

  19. Ellen says:

    Attaboy, Matt!

  20. Ed says:

    So glad it did well. Though next week will be more telling. LOVED the show. Very inventive, it keeps me hooked.

  21. Mike TV says:

    Finally something other that a show about lawyers, cops, homicide, or reality singing. First time I’ve watched ABC on Sunday night in years. I’m a 41 y/o guy and liked it.

    • tlbrownlie says:

      agreed. i’ve avoided abc shows like the plague for the past few years but tuned in for Robert Carlyle’s performance of Rumplestiltskin (which was off the wall excellent btw) and now find myself drawn to the whole show and cast. cant wait for next week.

  22. Teresa says:

    I loved it and am so glad that it did well in the ratings. I hope it continues to do well. Jennifer Morrison did a spectacular job as Emma, everyone was terrific in their parts. I’m so looking forward to the next episode!

  23. Jeanine Napoleon Goldman says:

    The evil queen/mayor was absolutely stunning.
    She is definitely something special. Good choice for putting her on all the posters. She is beautiful. And talented.

  24. MJ in Michigan says:

    My mom is 76 and called me yesterday evening to ask if I could come tune her satellite dish to watch OUAT. The reason it was a big deal is that she hasn’t watched a SINGLE television show since her husband died in February. I went over and we watched it together, and both loved it. (I also set her dish to tune to her “new show” every week.) I tried to explain how excited I was about various actors and writers (especially Jane Espenson), but she just loved the story. :)

  25. Rosalynn says:

    I LOVED it!!!! Everyone did such an amazing job. I’ve been looking forward to this show for months! I got the jitters when the title sequence started. I loved the back and forth between Storybrook and the other place.

  26. Stormy says:

    Six people in our house, ages 14 to 70, and we all loved it. Especially the “oh that’s Jiminy Cricket walking the Dalmatian” or “Look at Emma’s candle, it’s When You Wish Upon a Star. So many things to notice, and work out.

  27. fernando says:

    Im so sad Pan Am is not going up, its a great show on a bad night full of football, please ABC be smart and move it to thursday night at 8/7pm

    • Cloudy Knight says:

      How bad can the night be when Once Upon a Time had such great ratings? Pan Am is just not a good show. Moving it to 8pm would be a big mistake. MAYBE moving it to a week day at 10pm would help.

      • Nero TheTVFiddler says:

        Let’s see how the ratings look next week for OUAT – initial show was outstanding ratings wise – 12.8 – quite good. I was particularly interested in how well DHousewives held onto the OUAT viewers. I’ll be watched those numbers again next week – DH lost quite a few of those viewers last night. I’m still of the mindset that if OUAT can hold onto its viewers [say in the 10m range after the really good initial outing last night], and we start to see DH lose more and more viewers from the OUAT lead-out, then we might still see DH moved to 10pm, and ABC try another new show (Good Christian Belles?) at 9pm (with OUAT as lead-in) rather than at 10pm with DH as lead-in. Just my thought at this point. I would like to see Pan Am get the 9pm slot on Sunday for just one night, following OUAT – perhaps a night when DH might be in rerun mode. Just to satisfy my curiosity as to how strong DH is as a lead-in for Pan Am vs another show with a bit more ‘juice’. I watched both OUAT and Pan Am last night and tried to sit through DH – I just can’t anymore – that show is just ‘tired’. The actors are gasping for air at this point – the writing (sorry to say) is just ‘done’ on that show after so many seasons – the actors are left with little to work with. Some shows stay on too long- DH should have wrapped it up last season, if not the season prior.

        Also, just a question to see what others think? Did anyone else (other than me), find the stabbing of Price Charming a bit ‘graphic’ for the Sunday, 8pm slot, or was it just me? If OUAT can be a ‘family friendly’ 8pm show with a stabbing, I’m still convinced Pan Am could be a similar show on Thursday at 8pm – minus that one bedroom scene w/Kelli Garner and ER-man from last night’s episode. If OUAT can be an 8pm show, Pan Am can be as well on Thursday nights.

  28. Tammy says:

    i really loved it

  29. Babygate says:

    I was very skeptical about this show from the first time I heard about it. I thought it was kind of a joke. But then I kept seeing promos until slowly but surely I started to actually look forward to it. And it did not disappoint. The last scene when Henry sees the clock move forward one minute actually made me tear up. The happiness and the hope! Well done ABC. A show that actually the whole family can watch. And I don’t have any kids and am well within the 18-49 demo.
    Just like Revenge, Once has completely surprised me. Two great, great shows.

  30. Guy says:

    Brilliant start to Once. It was a great pilot and I knew it would. I hope it stays around this mark for ABC because if it does it could possibly take DH timeslot next season. Well done ABC. They seem to be having a bit better luck this year. Bring on next week. BTW what is with the12 year old girls comment? Get a life ABC hater!!!

  31. WhiteRaven says:


  32. Emgee says:

    Got a feeling this show is going to be a HUGE hit.

  33. Teddy B says:

    29yr old male loved OUAT!!! I believe this show can fill the void LOST left me with….

  34. rachel says:

    google nielson (i don’t know the website off hand). Right now they are accepting applications to keep track of your shopping and if you also keep a tv diary they will pay you an extra $30 up front.

  35. AC says:

    Poorly written, poorly directed. The actors did the best with what they had, Robert Carlyle turning in the most interesting performance. I was really disappointed, but will watch the next couple of episodes to be sure since pilots are always tricky.

  36. carol says:

    Watched OUAT the first 30 minutes and then turned away to the sports. I think this show will tumble in the ratings just as predecessor hits like “V” and “Flash Forward” did. They were great at the starting gun, but faltered badly, shedding viewers by the bushel each subsequent week.

    In contrast, The Good Wife is getting stronger and stronger with each episode. Over 9 million viewers is a more than respectable number for a show like this one which appeals to an older, literate audience.

  37. lane says:

    the concept of the show is good, but what is great is the writers. This show will become an obsession for many just like LOST.

  38. sara says:

    I love it, I love Jennifer, Robert and all cast, amazing.

  39. Caiti says:

    I loved every minute of this show and can I just say I find it refreshing that #1 There are no vampires or werewolves to be seem, and #2 It is a good, clean, standard/family friendly show that doesn’t need sex, infidelity, or other immorality to get the #2 most highly rated spot of the night. Once Upon a Time has made a fan out of this 25 year old woman for as long as it will be on tv for me to watch it.

  40. anna says:

    OMG!THIS SHOW IS AWESOME!. I like it so much i cant even stop watching it! Now im waiting for season 5 to come out! its so interesting!!!who ever made this show then they should be very rich and popular.

  41. jans dosh says:

    this really had me hooked