Summer shows are bombing, big time


The Live Feed reports this summer is one for the record books: more than a dozen new programs launched on broadcast television and not one breakout hit, with returning shows down and ratings at an all-time low. Near the bottom of the ratings list are ABC’s “Defying Gravity” (3.3 million viewers, 1.0 adults 18-49 rating); ABC’s “The Superstars” (3.8 million, 1.3); NBC’s “The Listener” (4.7 million, 1.3); Fox’s “Mental” (4.6 million, 1.4 adults 18-49 rating); NBC’s “The Philanthropist” (5.6 million, 1.4); the CW’s “Hitched or Ditched” (1.4 million, 0.6); NBC’s imported miniseries “Merlin” (4.8 million, 1.3); and NBC’s “Great American Road Trip” (3.9 million, 1.1).

One media agency analyst tells RBR/TVBR, “The shows you referenced — Philanthropist, Listener and Mental — were not deemed good enough to air in-season. For example, Mental is based on an inexpensive format that was being translated around the world.”

From the article:
Note the wide range of genres. There are programs from every broadcaster, with imported dramas like “Mental” and domestically grown titles such as “Philanthropist.” There’s no clear trend that the titles have in common — other than flopping.

“Sometimes we make general pronouncements about trends; this summer we just collectively missed the mark,” another network exec told The Live Feed. “There’s too many shows with 1s in front of their demo rating. We just did a bad job.”

Among the better performers was Fox’s fat bachelor dating show “More to Love” (3.9 million, 1.8), NBC’s Heidi and Spencer-filled “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” (5.0 million, 1.9) and ABC’s literal blind dating series “Dating in the Dark” (5.1 million, 2.1).

“Dark” performed well when it had a “Bachelorette” lead-in and carries the highest average rating of the new shows. Yet none of them has drawn large enough of an audience to be considered highly likely to return.

Other new titles this summer include CBS’ urban “Survivor” reality show “There Goes the Neighborhood” (4.8 million, 1.6) and ABC’s investment reality series “Shark Tank” (4.2 million, 1.3), both of which debuted to disappointing numbers Sunday.

At the bottom of the ratings list were a couple of shows that were new to summer but launched in-season — like ABC’s “Surviving Suburbia” (3.2 million, 0.9).

Appropriate for a summer of fail, the very last show was one of the most expensive and with the most regal title — “Kings,” which was run off on Saturdays.

At the top of the list are returning hits “America’s “Got Talent” (12.4 million, 3.4) from NBC and Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” (9 million, 3.5), with “Talent” leading in viewers and “Dance” edging out a victory for the adult demo. Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (7.4 million, 3.4) and ABC’s “Wipeout” (8.8 million, 3.1) round out the top shelf. Yet all took knocks from last summer.

The erosions are not happening in a vacuum. The ratings playing field between broadcast and cable ratings continues to collectively flatten, with several shows on cable posting gains (such as USA’s “Royal Pains” and “Burn Notice” and HBO’s “True Blood”). 

For the summer, Fox (averaging 5.2 million, 1.9) leads in the demo, with largely repeat-driven CBS (6.8 million, 1.5) tops among total viewers. Then there’s ABC (4.8 million, 1.6), NBC (5.3 million, 1.5) and the CW (1 million, 0.4).”

RBR/TVBR observation: We have to wonder—could it have anything to do with the folks out there who can’t watch broadcast TV anymore because of the June 12 DTV switch? Many in fringe areas and valleys are not going to put that rooftop antenna on the house they would need, and can’t afford cable. In the past, these viewers would put up with a bit of analog static and ghosting with their rabbit ears antenna. Now, that converter—if they bothered to pick one up—is just not bringing the signal(s) in at all. If this trend continues through Fall, perhaps it might be worth considering a factor.

On the other hand, as one media analyst puts it, “That’s not the reason. As a result of the digital transition many of these unready homes chose to subscribe to cable TV.  Having access to cable gives you many more viewing options. Cable networks program their best content during the summer months. Broadcast networks? Not so much. Viewers have been trained to come back to broadcast in the fall when their favorites are back; If internet buzz is any indicator, they are also eagerly anticipating the new entries.”