TNT’s new Holly Hunter series Saving Grace came out of the gate with a bang Monday night (July 23), premiering to a huge 6.42 million total viewers and 4.86 million households, according to Nielsen Media Research.
That makes it this summer’s top ad-supported cable series premiere and the third most-viewed ever, behind TNT’s The Closer (5.26 million households in June, 2005) and USA’s The 4400 (5 million in July, 2004).
The 10 p.m. show, about a tough-gal Oklahoma City cop, held on to most of its lead-in from The Closer, which preceded it at 9 p.m. with 7.28 million viewers. Grace skewed slightly old, with 2.47 million of its viewers adults 25-54 and 1.94 million adults 18-49. But Closer breaks down pretty much the same way – last night’s episode drew 2.8 million adults 25-54 and 2 million adults 18-49.
More importantly for TNT, Grace held a steady audience throughout its audience. It also far bettered the performance of the network’s other new summer series Heartland, which didn’t capitalize on its Closer lead-in nearly as well.
Heartland premiered to 4.3 million viewers after The Closer’s record-breaking season three premiere (8.8 million viewers) on June 18 and has dropped since (last week’s episode drew 2.8 million). Executives decided to kick it to the 8 p.m. timeslot beginning last night to give Grace a fighting chance behind The Closer at 10 p.m.
Elsewhere in cable ratings, AMC’s July 19 Mad Men premiere drew 1.6 million total viewers, 65% (1.07 million) of which were viewers 50 and older. That's a bigger percentage than the network's usual primetime draw of adults 50 and older, which was just 54% during second quarter.
Still, the episode's 1.6 million total viewers outperformed AMC's second quarter primetime average (927,000) by 77%. Plus younger viewers might not know to turn to AMC for originals since Mad is the network's first in some 20 years.
B&C reported last week that the show notched a 1.4 rating, but at the time Nielsen information on demo breakdowns was not available. The episode’s median age was 54.4. 510,000 viewers (31% of the audience) were adults 18-49 and 731,000 (44% of the audience) were adults 25-54.
For the week ending July 22 (and thus excluding Grace’s premiere), Disney drew the most viewers, averaging 3.55 million viewers in prime. It was followed by USA with 2.38 million, TNT with 2.18 million and TBS with 1.55 million.