USA Network rides ratings high with 'Royal Pains'

The week following the conclusion of the NBA Finals and before the launch of some high-profile reality skeins proved to be brutal for the broadcasters.

Although CBS held up relatively well, the Big Four accounted for just 22% of the primetime 18-49 audience — down from 26% in the same week a year ago, according to Nielsen.

And cable stepped up in a big way.

USA, riding high thanks to more gains for hot newcomer “Royal Pains” and several other notable performances, nearly caught ABC for the week. Other cable highlights included a big finale for Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New Jersey” and more potent numbers for TNT’s “The Closer” and HBO’s “True Blood.”

How bad was it for the broadcasters?

NBC bowed a show on Friday to fewer than 2 million viewers; a firstrun ABC drama pulled a 2 share and ranked seventh in its slot; and a firstrun CW reality skein did a 1 share and ranked 13th in its time period.

These firstrun flops come on top of the fact that most scripted repeats — even those of some procedurals — are faring poorly and no new reality show has emerged a winner.

Fortunately for the major nets, reliable multinight players “America’s Got Talent” on NBC and “Big Brother” on CBS return soon, and ABC has high hopes for its new version of “Superstars,” which bowed Tuesday night.

Looking at the week’s overall Nielsen averages, Fox won in adults 18-49 with a measly 1.7 rating/6 share, followed by CBS (1.4/5), NBC and Univision (both 1.3/4), ABC (1.1/4), USA (1.0/3) and TNT and TBS (both 0.7/2).

CBS led in both adults 25-54 (2.0/6) and total viewers (7 million). In the latter category, the Eye was up by 9% vs. last year while Fox dropped by 22% and ABC and NBC by 30% or more.

Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” claimed the week’s top two spots in the 18-49 rankings with Wednesday’s two-hour performance show (3.1/10 in 18-49, 8.48 million viewers overall) and Thursday’s hourlong results show (2.9/9, 7.98m).

Cable was repped in the top 10 by USA’s final hour of “WWE Raw” on Monday (2.2/7 in 18-49, 6.09m) and Thursday’s “Royal Pains” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 6.50 million viewers overall). Latter drama has now grown with each of its first two segs following its already-strong series preem.

“Royal Pains” built a bit on its lead-in from “Burn Notice” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 5.78m), which ranked 14th for the week in 18-49 — giving USA a dynamic duo on Thursday that beat out scripted repeats on ABC, CBS and NBC in the 18-49 demo.

USA also continues to get decent numbers from Sunday dramas “In Plain Sight” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.72m) and “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” (1.0/3, 3.44m), while repeats of “NCIS” are delivering everywhere they’re skedded. Last Wednesday, for the first time, a USA seg of “NCIS” topped 5 million viewers.

At Bravo, “Real Housewives of New Jersey” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 3.48m) became the net’s top-rated Tuesday telecast in the demo since “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” in 2003. Add in the additional 1.13 million viewers who watched an 11 p.m. repeat and it’s the largest same-night aud for a “Housewives” telecast to date.

Tuesday also saw Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 3.63m) continue to perform very well, tying for the 18-49 lead at 9 p.m. and standing as the evening’s No. 1 program in men 18-49 (2.3/7).

Over at TNT, Jada Pinkett Smith medical drama “Hawthorne” bowed with a solid 1.2/4 in 18-49 and 3.83 million viewers overall. It got little help from nonscripted lead-in “Wedding Day” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 853,000).

The net’s “The Closer” remains sturdy (1.4/4, 6.47m), though among cable dramas it lagged “Royal Pains” in total viewers and both that show and “Burn Notice” in demos.

And HBO’s “True Blood” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 3.41m) was down from its record bow of the previous week but is still well ahead of last year’s pace.

As for the broadcast busts, there’s ABC’s “Cupid” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.14m), CW’s “Hitched or Ditched” (0.5/1, 1.19m) and NBC’s summer preem of reality show “The Chopping Block” on Friday (0.6/2, 1.96m).

Faring better but still soft was NBC’s two-hour Sunday launch of “Merlin,” which closed with a 1.4/4 in 18-49 and 5.34 million viewers during the 9 o’clock hour. On the same night, the bow of ABC’s two-part meteor movie “Impact” settled for a 1.2/3 in 18-49 and 4.69 million viewers.

And then there’s CW, which fell below 1 million viewers for the first time (950,000) — well behind MyNetwork (1.32 million) and not too far ahead of Ion (820,000).

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