Scripted Shows ShiftSummer’s Ratings Tide

Under the Dome’s success points the way for other broadcast networks following suit
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amorabito@nbmedia.com | @andreamorabito


Why This Matters
Broadcast networks have failed to launch a new summer reality franchise in recent seasons, finding that the bigger payoff may be in scripted "event" series.

Last summer, the broadcast networks launched 16 new series in the summer, only three of which were renewed—The CW’s Breaking Pointe and Oh Sit! (which averaged just a 0.2 and 0.3 rating respectively with adults 18-34 this summer) and Fox’s Hotel Hell, which remains without a return date. Though again, only three new series have been renewed so far this summer—CBS’ scripted hit Under the Dome, NBC’s Hollywood Game Night and The CW’s reboot of Whose Line Is It Anyway?—all seem more destined to be summer utility players.

Under the Dome is by far the summer’s top-rated show on broadcast, averaging a 2.7 overnight rating with adults 18-49. The nextclosest newcomers are NBC’s reality competition Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls, which averaged a 1.3 rating in the demo; ABC’s scripted drama Mistresses, averaging a 1.2 rating; and Game Night, also drawing a 1.2.

Likewise, CBS is the only Big Four broadcast network up summer-to-date from last year in the adults 18-49 demo (through Aug. 19), rising 9% on the strength of Dome, with ABC flat, NBC down 4% (excluding its broadcast of the 2012 Summer Olympics) and Fox, which didn’t launch any new primetime series this summer, down 19% in the demo.

“It’s been terrific this summer not just from a promotional point of view—it’s a great platform for us to promote our fall series—but in terms of sales, in terms of circulation,” says Kelly Kahl, senior executive VP of CBS primetime. “It’s better business to keep your viewer numbers up in the summer.”

Scripting a Course for Summer 2014


With the other networks set to follow CBS’ lead into summer “event” series, this time next year could see all four in the black. Summer 2013 found six new scripted shows on broadcast— seven if you count CBS’ revived Unforgettable—which was a higher total than ever before. Besides the return of Dome, CBS has ordered the Steven Spielberg drama series Extant for summer 2014 and Fox has 24: Live Another Day premiering next spring leading into the M. Night Shyamalan “event” series Wayward Pines. ABC has renewed its stalwart Rookie Blue and has given a 13-episode order to drama The Black Box for 2014.

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“We have a vision for what we want to accomplish next summer, and it is a better balance that includes both scripted and unscripted,” says Dan Harrison, executive VP of scheduling at Fox. “We will use CBS’ success as a canary in the coal mine in terms of we’re happy they had success, and we look forward to building on it.”

That balance will be key if the broadcast networks hope to beat back the fierce summer competition from cable, like the record 11.8 million viewers who tuned into the Aug. 14 premiere of A&E’s reality hit Duck Dynasty. Except for Big Brother on CBS and Master- Chef on Fox, all of the broadcast summer reality franchises—ABC’s The Bachelorette, Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance and NBC’s America’s Got Talent—are down year over year.

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