Carat Programming has highlighted summer programming performance for both network and cable TV covering the weeks of May 26-August 3, 2008, prior to the onset of summer games in Beijing.
Typically, the collective audience to ad-supported cable TV trounces the audience to broadcast TV during the summer months and this year is no different. Ad-supported cable remains at a 63 share, more than twice that of the four broadcast networks combined.
What’s unusual this time around is the degree of stability across almost every viewing option versus YAG. Lingering fallout from the writers strike forced the delayed telecast of network scripted series finales. The boost from these delayed telecasts contributed to the overall summer season standings among the broadcast networks. For example, ABC aired its two-hour season finale of Lost on May 29, after the end of the broadcast season. The strike also postponed the return of popular cable scripted originals. Popular cable series such as F/X’s
Rescue Me and USA’s Starter Wife were unable to return this summer.
ABC relied on a mix of reality series along with repeats of scripted series. Noteworthy was the launch of Wipeout, a Japanese-inspired extreme game show. Wipeout was ABC’s highest-rated summer series averaging 9.7 million total viewers. It also ranked third overall against Adults 18-49. Its other Japanese-inspired competition series, I Survived a Japanese Game Show was a more modest performer, averaging only 6.3 million total viewers.
CBS relied mostly on repeats of its crime procedurals. It also launched two new scripted series: The controversial couple-swapping series Swingtown averaged 5.6 million viewers and Canadian co-production drama Flashpoint posted 7.4 million viewers.
On the non-scripted side CBS introduced Greatest American Dog which tied with repeats of Without a Trace for number 24. Its top-ranked summer series was repeats of Two and a Half Men which finished third overall.
NBC returned America’s Got Talent and the show continues to be America’s favorite summer reality series in both total viewers (12.6 million) and Adults 18-49 (3.4 rating). Also noteworthy is the surprise success of new entry, Baby Borrowers. While it was ranked number 63 against total viewers, Borrowers was the tenth highest-rated show against Adults 18-49.The show, which is adapted from a British format, attempted to teach teens some real life lessons by having them experience what it is like to take care of babies, children and the elderly.
ABC Family premiered its breakout drama, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, to an impressive audience of 2.3 million viewers, making it the most watched original series premiere in the network’s history.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager has continued to perform well in Adults 18-49 and its core demo, Viewers 12-34. The series has already been renewed for a second season. In mid-June ABC Family introduced
the new superhero program, The Middleman. The new series has been averaging a 0.3 Household rating.
MTV returned this summer with season two of reality competition series, Randy Jackson Presents: America’s Best Dance Crew, whose average household rating was down 31% versus last season. The July 19th premiere raked in over 2.3 million viewers and performed impressively among its core target, Viewers 12-34.
America’s Best Dance Crew recently wrapped up the season and is in the works to find talent for season three which launches in October. Other original MTV summer programming included newcomers Legally Blonde The Musical: Search for Elle Woods, Buzzin’ and From G’s to Gents. The Hills and Run’s House came back this summer for Seasons 4 and 5, respectively.
Critically acclaimed TBS comedy, My Boys returned for a second season, and experienced a dip in viewership. However, its cliff-hanger finale episode brought in over 1.5 million viewers, about 20% higher versus its freshman season finale. There is no word as of yet as to whether My Boys will return for a third season. The Bill Engvall Show returned in mid-June. Overall, Engvall is off by 18% in Households and 12% in total viewers versus YAG.
TNT’s top-rated series, The Closer returned for its fourth season in mid-July. Also returning was sophomore series, Saving Grace. The Closer and Saving Grace, both of which feature strong female leads, are highly concentrated among female viewers. The dramas also perform particularly well against Adults 25-54.
Although there has been some audience fall-off versus last season, these two shows are among the most popular scripted series on cable television.
The Labor Day launch of the new Stephen Bochco drama Raising the Bar delivered 7.7 million total viewers. Unfortunately, the audience to its second episode, which aired on September 8, fell by 36% versus its debut.
USA had an amazing summer, beginning with freshman series, In Plain Sight, which proved itself to be an instant success. Its debut back in June brought in over 5.2 million viewers and it has already been picked up for a second season. Burn Notice returned for a sophomore season and posted well over 5.3 million viewers, having increased its delivery against Viewers 2+ versus its freshman season. Monk and Psych retained their reputation as two of the higher-rated original scripted series staples on ad-supported cable. USA’s unique mix of dramedies help to increase its C3 rating by 4% versus YAG, making it the top cable network during Summer 2008.
VH1 stayed with its popular “Celebreality” brand of program content. It launched the following new entries:
Brooke Knows Best, I Love Money, New York Goes to Hollywood and I Want to Work for Diddy.
In late August, VH1 counterprogrammed The Beijing Summer Olympic games with these two new entries: The Cho Show, starring comedian Margaret Cho, as well as fashion competition series Glam God with Vivica A. Fox.