Ratings For The ‘Big Bang Theory’ Season Premiere Don’t Bode Well For An 11th Season

Speculation began last May, after the ninth season finale of CBS’s venerable hit Big Bang Theory, that this 10th season could be the final year for the comedy. Ratings for the show continue to be stellar relative to every other comedy on television — it was seen by more than 20 million people a week last season — but it has also shown signs of aging. Last season, ratings slipped 11 percent in the 18-49 demo, although it still remained TV’s top comedy by a large margin.

This 10th season, however, is a contract year, so CBS will have to decide if they’re willing to shell out a huge amount of money to keep the cast on for another season. The network pays Kaley Cuoco, Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg around $5.25 million an episode as it stands, and the cast may be looking for more to stick around for an 11th season. CBS would need the sitcom to continue putting up huge numbers to justify the cost.

Ratings for this week’s season premiere of Big Bang Theory weren’t exactly confidence boosting. Overnight ratings show that the CBS sitcom pulled a 3.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 15.4 million viewers overall. That’s a drop of 15 percent in overall viewers, but a whopping 23 percent in the 18-49 demographic compared to last year’s season premiere. Granted, last year’s season premiere paid off a few cliffhangers, but even still, a drop that big is probably turning some heads at the network.

Rumors began in earnest that this could be last season after the spring finale. Series star Kunal Nayyar suggested that possibility, while showrunner Steve Molaro was even more definitive, telling the Hollywood Reporter that he “thinks” season 10 will be the final year for the comedy. “The reality is that maybe season 10 is the ending point. The real answer is, I don’t know and all I can do right now is go episode to episode and try to make each one the best that we can.”

The network, of course, will want to keep the sitcom around as long as it can continue to make money on it, and CBS head Glenn Geller suggested over the summer that he was confident the network could resign the stars, but with ratings that continue to dwindle, the network will have to decide if the numbers justify the expense.

Dwindling ratings or not, there is still something to be said for Big Bang Theory’s ability to launch new shows. Kevin James’ Kevin Can Wait premiered on Monday after Big Bang Theory to a very respectable 2.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 11.2 million viewers, which is in line with the debut of Life in Pieces in the same slot last season.

Big Bang Theory might have also taken a small hit from The Voice, which returned to NBC on Monday night with new mentors Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys. It dropped only two-tenths of a point from its 2015 debut. It also helped boost the premiere of Kristen Bell’s The Good Place to a solid 2.3 rating among adults 18-49. The Good Place will debut tonight in its regular time slot on NBC.