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NOV
30
4 YEARS

Big chart! Summer cable ratings: 'Jersey Shore' +194%, 'Burn Notice' -10%, 'Mad Men' +26% ...

jersey shore3Several of cable’s most popular procedural dramas have lost viewers this summer, while the ratings for buzz-heavy shows like MTV’s "Jersey Shore," HBO’s "True Blood" and AMC’s "Mad Men" have soared (big chart below).

Those are just a few of the revealing findings from the latest Nielsen data for 35 high-profile summer cable shows.

While the off-broadcast audience continues to expand, with cable channels regularly setting ratings records, many tentpole dramas have experienced erosion.

USA is expected to win the summer Nielsen race for the fifth consecutive year. Its new spy hit "Covert Affairs" (averaging 5.1 million viewers to date and growing) was just renewed for a second season. Yet the network’s successful returning titles "Psych" (3.6 million), "Burn Notice" (5.6 million) and "Royal Pains" (5.4 million) are each down about 10% compared with 2009.

rizzoliAlso slipping are TNT’s sophomore effort "Hawthorne" (3 million), off 12%; FX’s "Rescue Me" (1.3 million), dipping 19%; and the second season of Syfy’s "Warehouse 13" (2.6 million), down 21%. USA’s sophomore "White Collar" (4.4 million) also fell about 10% but with some caveats — the show last aired in the fall when viewing levels are higher, and "Collar" has improved in the adult demo.

Lest one assume such declines are inevitable, TNT is proving that even the oldest cable crime drama can grow: "The Closer" (7.1 million) managed to gain 8% for its sixth season. Plus, TNT doubled up with new drama "Rizzoli & Isles" (7 million) generating a similarly massive viewership. TNT’s other freshman entry, "Memphis Beat" (3.6 million), is performing solidly and improving, while "Leverage" (3.4 million) is on par with last year.

Other cable climbers include three trendy critic favorites: AMC’s "Mad Men" (2.4 million), averaging 26% more viewers than last summer; HBO’s "True Blood" (4.8 million), up 20%; and Showtime’s "Weeds" (1.3 million), up 8% after one airing.
By comparison, HBO’s comedies didn’t fare as well. The second go-round for "Hung" has drooped 14%, and the penultimate season of "Entourage" has been steady, both averaging about 185,000 viewers for premiere airings (premium cable networks measure their shows by cumulative viewership over several airings, though comparing their premieres still lends a sense of overall viewer interest).

Other debuts have been a mixed bag. TV Land’s "Hot in Cleveland" (3.1 million) was spectacular for a network’s first comedy and rose impressively for this week’s finale. Just out-of-the-gate cancer comedy "The Big C" (1.2 million) performed tremendously for a new Showtime series. A&E’s first original drama "The Glades" (3.2 million) was nicely solid, and ABC Family’s "Pretty Little Liars" (2.6 million) set record ratings for the network and is still performing well. TBS’ "Are We There Yet?" (2.6 million) was competitive and good enough to trigger a 90-episode renewal.

futurmaComedy Central’s "Futurama" revival (2.2 million) slipped significantly from its premiere but settled into a stable groove. AMC’s political thriller "Rubicon" (1.5 million) has likewise dropped sharply from its opener, yet the past two episodes are just about in the ballpark for a second-season order. Syfy mystery thriller "Haven" (2 million) performed OK. MTV’s single-cam teen comedy "Hard Times of RJ Berger" (1.1 million) was modest but pulled a second-season renewal. FX’s critically well-regarded "Louie" (746,000) was soft, shedding viewers during its run, yet likewise renewed.
On the reality front, Discovery’s "Deadliest Catch" (4.5 million), rocked by the death of Capt. Phil Harris, was up 29%. Animal Planet’s "Whale Wars" (1.3 million) grew 18%. Bravo’s "Top Chef" (2.3 million) was down 21%.

Which leaves what’s arguably the biggest success story of the summer. The ever-divisive phenomena "Jersey Shore" (5.3 million) is up a stunning 194% from an already impressive first season. With 3.5 million of those viewers between the ages of 18-49, the MTV reality show routinely clobbers broadcast.

Here's the chart. This is Live +Same Day average total viewership compared to each show's run last summer:

Channel Show Avg. Viewership Change
TNT
The Closer
7.1 million
+8%
TNT
Rizzoli & Isles
7 million
n/a
USA
Burn Notice
5.6 million
-10%
USA
Royal Pains
5.4 million
-10%
MTV
Jersey Shore
5.3 million
+194%
USA
Covert Affairs
5.1 million
n/a
HBO
True Blood
4.8 million
+20%
Discovery
Deadliest Catch
4.5 million
+29%
USA
White Collar
4.1 million
-11%*
TNT
Memphis Beat
3.6 million
n/a
USA
Psych
3.6 million
-10%
TNT
Leverage
3.4 million
-3%
A&E
The Glades
3.2 million
n/a
TV Land
Hot in Cleveland
3.1 million
n/a
TNT
Hawthorne
3 million
-12%
ABC Family
Secret Life of the American Teenager
2.8 million
-12%
Syfy
Warehouse 13
2.6 million
-21%
ABC Family
Pretty Little Liars
2.6 million
n/a
TBS
Are We There Yet?
2.6 million
n/a
Lifetime
Drop Dead Diva
2.4 million
-11%
AMC
Mad Men
2.4 million
+26%
Syfy
Eureka
2.4 million
0%
Bravo
Top Chef
2.3 million
-21%
Comedy Central
Futurama
2.2 million
n/a
Syfy
Haven
2 million
n/a
AMC
Rubicon
1.5 million
n/a
Showtime
Weeds
1.3 million
+8%
FX
Rescue Me
1.3 million
-19%
Animal Planet
Whale Wars
1.3 million
+18%
Showtime
The Big C
1.2 million
n/a
MTV
Hard Times of RJ Berger
1.1 million
n/a
Bravo
Work of Art
1.1 million
n/a
FX
Louie
746,000
n/a
Bravo
Kathy Griffin: Life on the D-List
720,000
-3%
HBO
Hung
185,000
-14%
HBO
Entourage
185,000
0%

*Compared to "White Collar" fall run when viewing levels are higher