'Singing' sets tone in nets' karaoke contest

Round one in the battle of the song-lyric skeins goes to NBC.

One night before Fox weighed in with its similarly themed “Don’t Forget the Lyrics,” the Peacock was humming a happy tune Tuesday with the debut of “The Singing Bee.”

The karaoke contest hosted by Joey Fatone opened with the best young-adult score for a summer reality series bow in five years, building on its lead-in from “America’s Got Talent” — summer’s most-watched series. “Bee” had originally been tapped as a fall series, but NBC moved up its launch date when Fox announced its July 11 start date for “Lyrics” (Daily Variety, June 25).

According to same-day national Nielsen estimates, “The Singing Bee” averaged a 5.1 rating/14 share in adults 18-49 and 13.31 million viewers overall in the 9:30 half-hour, winning its timeslot despite tough competition from Fox’s “Major League Baseball All-Star Game” and reality competition on both ABC and CBS. It built on the last half-hour of “Talent” by 11% in 18-49 (5.1 vs. 4.6).

“Bee” becomes the top-rated new summer series launch on any network in adults 18-49 since NBC’s “Meet My Folks” in July 2002, and it’s the best bow for NBC, summer or regular season, since “The Apprentice” in January 2004. In total viewers, “Bee” is the top new unscripted summer premiere since ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” in 2005, and the best for NBC in at least 13 years.

The combination of “Talent” and “Bee” in the 9 o’clock hour overwhelmed CBS’ Tuesday premiere of “Big Brother 8″ (2.6/7 in 18-49, 6.81m) — which was down a tick from its bow on the night a year ago — and more than tripled what ABC did with weight-loss series “Shaq’s Big Challenge” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 4.22m).

“Singing Bee,” from the Gurin Co. and Juma Entertainment and exec producers Phil Gurin and Bob Horowitz, aired a half-hour seg again last night at 8:30. Fox’s “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” bowed in the 9:30 half-hour last night behind “So You Think You Can Dance,” and will also get a 30-minute airing tonight.

Baseball’s All-Star Game, meanwhile, was down 11% in young adults vs. last year but still put up good numbers (4.1/12 in 18-49, 12.53 million viewers overall), airing from 8:48 p.m. to 12:01 a.m. ET.

In Tuesday’s closing hour of primetime, baseball won out over NBC’s repeat of “Law & Order: SVU” (2.9/8 in 18-49, 8.50m) and the timeslot premiere of CBS unscripted series “Pirate Master” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 4.61m). ABC did pretty well in the hour with its limited-run newsmag series “Primetime: Family Secrets” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 7.20m).

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