LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - NBC won U.S. television's official premiere week with key viewers for the first time since 2003, and swiftly announced full season orders on Tuesday for three of its new shows.
Boosted by "Sunday Night Football - the nation's most watched program - singing contest "The Voice" and futuristic new drama "Revolution," NBC was first in the 18-49 age group prized by advertisers and showed a 12 percent increase in that demographic compared to the 2011 TV premiere week, Nielsen data showed.
NBC, which has struggled with shrinking audiences for the past decade, acknowledged in a statement that the network still had much work to do.
It said it had ordered full seasons of "Revolution" - the top new drama series with 18-49 year olds - along with its new comedy "Go On", starring former "Friends" star Matthew Perry.
Ryan Murphy's gay adoption comedy "The New Normal," also got the green light for a full season, NBC said in a statement.
According to Nielsen data, NBC was third in average total viewers (8.2 million), with long-time leader CBS finishing top of the pile so far in the new season with 10.7 million. NBC however said it was the only one of the four main TV networks to increase its average viewers over the same week in 2011, recording a 9 percent gain.
NBC, which is majority-owned by Comcast, has been struggling for years to recapture the bumper audiences it enjoyed with 1990s hit comedies like "Friends," and "Frasier".
In a bid to rise from its perennial bottom place, the network ordered an unprecedented 16 new shows for the 2012-13 TV season, and is introducing six of them - mostly comedies - this fall.
NBC's tactics of moving singing contest "The Voice" to a twice yearly cycle also appears to be paying dividends. The show has beaten its revamped Fox rival "The X Factor" despite the arrival of Britney Spears on its judging panel.
NBC used its broadcasts of the London Olympics in July and August to promote its new offerings, running early previews and offering several comedies online ahead of the traditional late September start of the U.S. television season.
"The strategy for this season was to draft off the promotional platform of the Olympics and then begin our season early and strong. I think we've accomplished both of those goals, yet we know it's a long season and there's much work ahead of us," NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said in a statement.
In the 18-49 age group, Fox finished second, followed by CBS, and ABC, according to Nielsen data for the week starting September 24.
In total viewers, CBS was first with 10.7 million average viewers, followed by ABC (8.3 million), NBC 8.1 million, and Fox 6.9 million.
Fox is a unit of News Corp, CBS is owned by CBS Corp, and ABC is a unit of Walt Disney Co..
Reporting By Jill Serjeant; editing by Andrew Hay