Summer lovin' for nets

Ratings turnaround will help clear makegoods

The Big Five English-language broadcast networks, through the first eight weeks of the summer season, are cumulatively drawing 1.2 million more viewers per night than they did last summer.

They also are averaging the same cumulative 1.6 rating in the 18-49 demo and a 1.9 in 25-54 as they did last summer, according to Nielsen Media Research live-plus-same-day ratings data.

In the wake of the poor ratings the broadcast networks recorded in April and May, advertisers and their media agencies are generally pleased. And it will clearly allow the networks to catch up with makegoods they owe before the start of the fall season.

"What could have been a catastrophic situation for the broadcast networks has turned into a relatively good summer," said Brad Adgate, senior vp and director of research at Horizon Media.

As for cable, the 15 largest ad-supported nets are cumulatively drawing the same number of viewers as they did last summer, accomplished without several key series whose normal summer premieres have been delayed.

"It's been a normal, solid cable summer," said John Spiropoulos, vp and group research director at MediaVest. "And the premieres of many of their major scripted series have exceeded last year's."

USA's veteran drama "Monk" premiered this summer with 5.6 million viewers, 16% more than last year and its highest-rated premiere since 2005. TNT's "The Closer" opened with 500,000 more viewers than last summer.

On the broadcast side, ABC, which is averaging 1 million more viewers per night this summer, was helped early on by the NBA Finals in primetime, which drew about 5 million more viewers per night over the six-game series than last year's four-game series.

ABC's two new summer game shows, "Wipeout" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show," have buoyed the network's ratings and viewer numbers compared with last summer. "Wipeout" has average 9.6 million viewers per night and a solid 3.6 rating , while "Japanese Game Show" has drawn 6.7 million viewers per night and a 2.7 rating. Last summer, ABC's reality show "Fast Cars & Superstars" averaged only 2.9 million viewers and a paltry 0.8 rating.

CBS is flat in summer viewers but down about 10% in the demo. But it has been strengthened by the reality show "Greatest American Dog," which is drawing 8.2 million viewers a night despite a median viewer age of nearly 56.

The summer drama series "Flashpoint" has averaged 7.6 million viewers, and CBS just moved it from Fridays at 10 p.m. to Thursdays at 10 p.m. to try to expose it to the bigger TV-viewing night.

Fox's summer schedule has been strengthened by "Hell's Kitchen," which is baking 8.6 million viewers and a hefty 4.1 rating, and "So You Think You Can Dance," which averages 8.7 million viewers and a 3.2 rating cumulatively in its two weekly telecasts. NBC's clear summer hit is "America's Got Talent," which is drawing 12.3 million viewers and a 3.3 rating.

In the negative column is the CW, which is averaging 1.6 million viewers per night, down about 250,000.

Spiropoulos noted that after the WGA strike wreaked havoc on spring ratings, buyers had almost written off the summer. (partialdiff)