Season debut of NBC's 'Talent' takes off

The NBA Finals netted more big ratings for its deciding game Tuesday night, but NBC has reason to be pleased with the debut of summer stalwart “America’s Got Talent.”

Now in its third season, “Talent” posted the best numbers for any premiere this summer — giving the Peacock its first real good news on the entertainment front in months. While “Celebrity Circus” did OK in its bow last week, the likes of “American Gladiators,” “Nashville Star” and “Last Comic Standing” have all settled for mediocre-at-best numbers.

Nielsen estimates that “Talent” averaged a 3.7 rating/10 share in adults 18-49 and 12.78 million viewers overall from 9 to 11 p.m., rising each half-hour and ranking second to basketball in the 10 o’clock hour after placing third in demos to Fox’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (4.0/11, 8.25m) at 9 p.m.

“Talent” was down 14% in 18-49 from last year’s bow, which didn’t face an NBA Finals game or a tough nonscripted rival like “Hell’s Kitchen”; it was down just 2% year to year in total viewers.

The 3.7 demo rating is the Peacock’s best series score on any night since the May 15 season finale of “The Office,” and the show’s total-viewer count is the largest for an NBC series since an episode of “Law & Order: SVU” on April 15.

After two more two-hour episodes, “Talent” will regularly air from 9 to 10 p.m. on Tuesday.

As for the NBA Finals, Tuesday’s Game 6 averaged a potent 6.9 rating/20 share in adults 18-49 and 16.88 million viewers overall from 9:05 p.m. to 12:01 a.m. ET — the best scores for a deciding game in pro basketball’s championship series in three years (since San Antonio-Detroit in 2005).

Despite Tuesday’s lopsided result — the Celtics prevailed by 39 points to win the title — the game’s ratings grew throughout, peaking in the 11:30 p.m. half-hour with an 8.2/26 in the demo and 19.7 million total viewers.

On average, the six-game 2008 NBA Finals jumped by 65% in adults 18-49 (6.1/18 vs. 3.7/12) and by 61% in total viewers (15.0 million vs. 9.3 million) vs. last year’s record-low showing (San Antonio-Cleveland). These are the best averages for the Finals since 2004, when the Lakers made their last appearance (against the Detroit Pistons).

Elsewhere Tuesday, CBS didn’t generate a whole lot of excitement for its latest American Film Institute spec. “AFI’s 10 Top 10” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.54m) left the Eye a distant fourth for the night, coming in well below last year’s “100 Years, 100 Movies” (1.9/6, 7.70m), which didn’t face nearly as tough competish.

For its third-season premiere of “Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood,” Oxygen averaged 667,000 viewers — a larger aud than for any other debut episode of an original series in the eight-year history of the network. Compared with the season opener for season two of “Tori & Dean,” Tuesday’s seg was up by 30%.

(John Dempsey contributed to this report.)

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