NBA Finals score low ratings for ABC

Soft numbers for the NBA Finals kept ABC from ending Fox’s long primetime winning streak last week, as the latter net finished on top among young adults for the 18th straight time.

At this point in the summer, pro basketball usually takes over the ratings race, but the championship series between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers is performing sluggishly — and likely will finish at historic lows if the Cavs can’t get back in the series.

Instead, Fox remains primetime’s hottest net thanks to unscripted hits “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” as well as now, “Hell’s Kitchen,” which is heating up in the early stages of its second season.

Week ended Sunday also saw the Tony Awards hit historic lows on CBS, while TBS scored big with new Tyler Perry sitcom “House of Payne” and Lifetime could be pleased with strong week-two retention for its new drama “Army Wives.” Plus, of course, the series finale of HBO’s “The Sopranos” cast an imposing shadow, standing as the week’s No. 1 show in key demos and No. 2 in total viewers with 11.9 million (see story page 6).

Overall for the frame, Fox, with its 2.4 rating/8 share in adults 18-49, was comfortably ahead of ABC (2.0/6), CBS (1.8/6), NBC (1.7/5) and Univision (1.6/5). Latter Spanish-language net, with its mix of firstrun telenovelas and sports, figures to pull numbers close to the Big Four consistently this summer.

Fox also led in various demos like adults 25-54 (2.5/7) and those 12-34 (2.1/8) while CBS won easily in total viewers (7.2 million), Nielsen reported.

For Fox, “So You Think You Can Dance” remains hot, with Wednesday’s edition ranking as the No. 1 broadcast show in adults 18-49 (4.4/12), while Thursday’s episode did about as well (4.3/13) and set a series record in total viewers (11.07 million).

And “Hell’s Kitchen” kicked off its season a winner last week (3.7/10 in 18-49, 8.16m) and then turned up the Nielsen flame on Monday of this week (4.3/12, 8.55m), dominating its timeslot in key demos.

Only firstrun downer for Fox continues to be Tuesday’s “On the Lot” (1.4/5 in 18-49, 3.25m).

The first two games of the NBA Finals led ABC, though Thursday’s opener (3.7/12 in 18-49, 9.21m) was down 23% from last year’s Miami-Dallas Game 1. And Sunday’s Game 2 (3.4/10, 8.55m), thanks in part to tough competish from “The Sopranos,” tumbled 36% from last year’s corresponding game.

Among firstrun shows, Wednesday’s celeb impersonator skein “The Next Best Thing” was up in its second week (2.8/9, 8.36m), while lead-out “American Inventor” put up solid numbers in its second-season bow (3.0/8, 7.90m). At 10, scripted drama “Traveler” dipped in its third episode (1.7/5, 5.30m) but was still above what the net did in the hour a year ago with “Commander in Chief.”

Not so hot is Friday’s “National Bingo Night” (1.3/4, 4.38m), which posted its lowest scores to date, or limited-run unscripted series “Fast Cars,” which has flopped in its first two airings alongside the NBA Finals.

CBS, biding its time until “Big Brother” returns in July, isn’t getting much production out of Thursday reality series “Pirate Master” (1.9/7, 6.21m) or Monday claymation comedy “Creature Comforts” (1.8/6, 6.18m). And on Sunday, “The 61st Annual Tony Awards” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 6.22m) fell to its lowest scores yet on the net.

On the repeat front, though, Eye’s Monday series “Two and a Half Men” (3.3/9, 11.27m) and “How I Met Your Mother” (3.0/8, 8.72m) were the week’s top comedies.

NBC’s only news worth cheering was the two-hour return of “America’s Got Talent” (4.3/12 in 18-49, 12.99m), which was among the week’s top three programs in demos and stood as the frame’s most-watched program overall. Mercifully, hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals are over after Wednesday’s fifth and final game of the Anaheim-Ottawa series settled for a 1.3/4 in 18-49 and 2.9 million viewers overall.

Over in cable, TBS’ “House of Payne” was a big success in its premiere Wednesday (Daily Variety, June 8), combining with weekend runs of the original “Shrek” to lift the Turner net to a No. 1 finish among basic cablers for the week in 18-49.

USA, a close No. 2 in 18-49 and first in total viewers, saw Thursday drama “The Starter Wife” take a hit in its second airing (1.5/4 in 18-49, 3.92m) although it was still basic cable’s No. 2 entertainment series of the week in 18-49, behind only “House of Payne.”

And Lifetime’s “Army Wives” (1.1/3, 3.27m), while not as potent at “Starter Wife,” held up better in its second week — retaining nearly all of its premiere-week aud in both total viewers and key female demos. In women 25-54, it was the No. 1 cable show in its 10 o’clock timeslot (1.9/5).

* * *

And you can close the book on the 2006-07 television season, as Nielsen issued final program and network averages that include all DVR playback within seven days of a program’s original airdate.

When the dust settled, Fox rose to a 4.1 rating/11 share in adults 18-49, maintaining its average of the previous season and winning rather comfortably over second-place CBS (3.7/10) and third-place ABC (3.5/10). NBC remained deep in fourth place (3.1/8).

Fox’s “American Idol” finished as the No. 1 program in all key categories with Wednesday’s results-show edition (see accompanying chart). And despite some ratings erosion down the stretch, its two nights combined were off just 3% in 18-49 rating vs. the previous year (12.2/31 share vs. 12.6/31).

Third-year medical dramas “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC and “House” on Fox tied as the season’s No. 1 scripted programs in 18-49, while CBS vet “CSI” edged them both out to remain the top scripted show in total viewers.

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