Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer 2011 Cable Ratings Guide, #1

Hoping to do a couple more of these as the summer progresses, maybe in late July and then a final one in mid-September before the regular season gets going. These are some quick thoughts on how most of the current scripted originals on cable are doing, along with a few particularly notable unscripted originals. There will plenty more to add in the next one of these. I mostly talk adults 18-49 ratings even though not all these networks necessarily target that; this is because it's almost always accessible and I think it's still usually more useful than total viewer comparisons.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family): It's been a funny run recently for Secret Life, which in the spring was consistently below a 1.0 in A18-49 for pretty much the first time since its first few weeks on the air. Suddenly, its summer premiere (which came just one week after its spring finale) spiked to a 1.5 A18-49, its highest number since January 2010. It then pulled a 1.4 the next week. Those two weeks are both up double-digits year-to-year. Perhaps it's been helped by the arrival of...

Switched at Birth (ABC Family): I think it is worth noting that ABC Family is not exactly known for its out-of-the-box blockbusters. Secret Life started at just a 0.9 A18-49 in its first two weeks, as did Pretty Little Liars. Both would later become much bigger. And those are the network's two biggest successes at the moment. So it's gotta be encouraging that Switched at Birth premiered to a 1.3 and pulled a 1.2 in week two. Still a little early, but I'm pretty sure there will be more of this show beyond this summer.

Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family): The summer premiere of PLL was way up from last summer's series premiere, including A18-49 growth from 0.9 in 2010 to 1.3 this year. The 1.3 is a little down from the winter premiere (1.5), but it looks like another solid start. We'll see if it has the big post-premiere drop it had in the winter.

The Nine Lives of Chloe King (ABC Family): Switched at Birth started well, but it hasn't been all good news for ABC Family's newbie-heavy slate. The Nine Lives of Chloe King managed just a 0.7 A18-49 out of its 1.3 PLL lead-in. Definitely a slow start, but I won't write it completely off yet.

The Glades (A&E): A&E's straight procedural did decent work for them last summer and is off to a similarly decent start this summer. It premiered last year to a 0.9 and hit an 0.8 in week two, and this  year it's had an identical 0.9 -> 0.8 start. It seems to be skewing younger, as the total viewer counts are noticeably lower.

The Killing (AMC): The Killing started out in the 0.7 A18-49 range for its first month or so but has dropped over the course of season one. Now it seems relatively settled in the 0.5 area, even a little weaker than so-called ratings weaklings Mad Men and Breaking Bad. (Let's just say they're all miles behind The Walking Dead.) Nevertheless, The Killing has already scored a second-season renewal.

Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): The first five episodes of this summer's Tosh.0 season are picking up only a little shy of where the sensational winter run left off, scoring mid-to-high-1's in A18-49 so far. That means the show has now actually passed South Park to become Comedy Central's biggest primetime original, and it's up an amazing 50% from last summer's first five.

South Park (Comedy Central): South Park recently finished its seven-episode spring stint with a 1.44 A18-49 average. Still pretty solid cable numbers, but that's down more than 20% from the spring 2010 run.

Deadliest Catch (Discovery): Though it the back half of the season won't continue this trend (matching last year's ratings surrounding the death of Captain Phil seems impossible), Deadliest Catch has been having a solid year as one of the strongest unscripted shows on cable for Discovery. Its 1.66 average through ten episodes is up 2% vs. the first ten of 2010.

Game of Thrones (HBO): Perhaps the most scrutinized ratings on the Internet these days have been those of Game of Thrones, but rest assured this show is doing just fine. It premiered with a 0.9 A18-49 but rose in three of the four subsequent weeks and now gets a relatively reliable 1.2. It hasn't quite made the leap into True Blood territory just yet, but it's doing pretty solid work, which is...

Treme (HBO): ...more than can be said of this David Simon prestige project, which usually can't even manage to hold a quarter of its Game of Thrones lead-in, some of the worst retention you'll ever see. But it's coming back for season three, living proof that sometimes ratings don't really matter.

Pawn Stars (History): With True Blood and Jersey Shore off the air at the moment, it's this History Channel reality show that is the current king of cable among adults 18-49. Though it hasn't been hitting new highs of late, in its regular timeslot it's still a pretty reliable 2.5ish A18-49 perfomer. That's better than all of cable and most of broadcast these days.

American Pickers (History): Pawn Stars' Monday night companion is the slightly lower-rated American Pickers, but it's still one of cable's best, typically getting a high-1 rating in A18-49.

Swamp People (History): The big grower of late on History has been Swamp People, which has tied its A18-49 rating high (1.7) in its last two Thursday airings and has also set new viewership highs in each of those airings.

Army Wives (Lifetime): Army Wives was renewed early in its fifth season, but I was struck by how much the fifth season finale felt like a series finale. The show got an amazing bounce for a show this old when it killed off a regular early in the season, peaking at a 1.7 on March 27, but ultimately the season settled down in the 1.0-1.1 A18-49 range where it had settled for most of the previous season.

The Protector (Lifetime): I said back in the Sunday Summer Matchups post that I was sort of interested in this show's ratings because of its 3+ year development history. Apparently it wasn't worth the wait, as The Protector managed a mere 0.4 A18-49 (and a little less than 2 million viewers) in its June 19 premiere. That means it lost two-thirds of its Army Wives lead-in on premiere night. Basically as DOA as it gets on cable, but since it's cable, it should at least get to finish out this run.

The Real World: Las Vegas (MTV): I usually wouldn't mention this show, but I feel it's worthy because it's coming off of one of its strongest recent seasons. I don't have a ton of historical info, but this twenty-fifth season averaged a 1.22 in A18-49, ahead of at least the last four seasons.

Teen Wolf (MTV): This show's preview after the MTV Movie Awards (2.17m viewers, 0.9 A18-49) probably didn't tell us too much, as it divebombed on the next night to a 0.5. But then last week it recovered a bit, pulling a 0.7. Probably need to see more data on this one.

WWE Smackdown! (Syfy): Should have much more to say about Syfy the next time I do one of these, but for now I'll just look at their oft-moved WWE franchise. It's basically been around a 0.8 A18-49 rating or so since joining Syfy, maybe closer to 0.9 during the winter. That's still one of cable's stronger Friday shows, but it's down from even its days on MyNetworkTV, much less its UPN/CW heyday.

Memphis Beat (TNT): Season 2 of the Jason Lee drama managed just 3.02 million viewers and a 0.7 A18-49. That's way down from last June's 4.33m/1.1 demo series premiere, but perhaps more worryingly it's even below the 0.8/0.9 range the show settled in for the back half of season 1. Not a good start.

Hawthorne (TNT): See above. Hawthorne actually got a 1.0+ demo in each of its last four airings last summer but opened up this summer with just a 0.7. We'll see how it develops (maybe the end of The Voice will help?) but again, not a good start.

Franklin & Bash (TNT): The Franklin & Bash premiere (0.9 demo, 2.75m viewers) seemed a little underwhelming considering what was one of the more impressive promotional blitzes I've seen lately (it was constantly advertised during the NBA Playoffs, seemingly with a different spot every time). But the show's held up decently since, dropping just a tick in week two and then picking back up to a new high (0.9 demo, 2.88m) in week three. Especially stacked up against the soft returns from TNT's other summer dramas thus far, this one's looking all right.

Men of a Certain Age (TNT): HBO can keep a Treme around. Can TNT? Men of a Certain Age's first three weeks have each produced a mere 0.4 rating in A18-49. This is a clear ratings dud, and ratings-wise it certainly doesn't deserve to come back. But I like it so much...!

Hot In Cleveland (TV Land): I've mentioned this before, but this show has really come down a long way from when it was riding the Betty White hype machine this time a year ago. The 0.5 adults 18-49 rating for last Wednesday's premiere is down more than half from last year's strong 1.2 premiere, and the viewership's down about half as well. Still "good for TV Land," I guess, but not really "good for cable" anymore.

Happily Divorced (TV Land): Out of the gate with almost identical numbers to Hot In Cleveland was Fran Drescher's Happily Divorced, which built ever-so-slightly in viewers and maintained the 0.5 18-49 rating on premiere night. The opening numbers are even (in 18-49) with previous Cleveland lead-out Retired at 35, but Cleveland was a bigger lead-in back when that premiered. So we'll consider this a decent enough start.

WWE Raw (USA): Raw remains one of the strongest shows on cable, even though nobody really seems to talk about it. It's averaged about a 1.7 demo since the regular season ended. That's down a bit from its really strong 2.0+ run for much of the spring, but it's still up a little bit year-to-year.

White Collar (USA): White Collar is off to a decent start this summer. Its 1.2 A18-49 premiere was even with last year's, more impressive considering it faced both the NBA Finals and The Voice this year, but then it dropped a tick in week two even with the Finals out of the picture. Nothing abnormal to report so far.

Covert Affairs (USA): However, the early Covert Affairs performance is a bit more concerning. It was usually a mid-to-upper-1's performer in the demo last summer, and it built significantly on the White Collar lead-in. This time, it's out of the gate with the same 1.2 -> 1.1 track that White Collar is on. That's more than 25% down year-to-year thus far. As with TNT's Tuesday dramas, we'll see if the end of demo powerhouse The Voice helps out in a couple weeks, but this is a surprisingly soft start.

Law & Order: Criminal Intent (USA): The return of Goren and Eames to Criminal Intent brought big initial returns, with the 1.4 for the May 1 season premiere rating three ticks above any result from the previous season without them. CI dropped a lot from that premiere number but remains around a 1.0 demo, a little stronger than where the 2010 Goldblum/Burrows season settled.

In Plain Sight (USA): The return to Sunday hasn't just benefited Criminal Intent, as In Plain Sight has also grown a bit. Its first six episodes of 2011 have averaged a 0.92 demo and are up about 10% in the demo from the first six of 2010.

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