Cable bows bring in big audiences

The NBA Finals helped ABC slam dunk its primetime rivals in key demos last week, which was also a big one for premieres on cable.

USA was hot on Thursday with the return of “Burn Notice” and the bow of “Royal Pains,” while E! scored Sunday with the preem of “Kendra.” And the cable wave continues this week, which includes the season bows of “The Closer” on TNT and “True Blood” on HBO and the launch of A&E’s “Hammertime.”

Overall, though, it was pro basketball’s championship series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic that loomed large over everything else during the frame.

Combined, Thursday’s Game 1 (5.4 rating/16 share in adults 18-49, 13.04 million viewers overall) and Sunday’s Game 2 (5.8/17, 14.06m) gave ABC its strongest start to an NBA Finals in five years.

According to Nielsen “live plus same-day” estimates, ABC led for the week in adults 18-49 with a 2.3 rating/7 share, followed by NBC and Fox (tied at 1.8/6), CBS (1.6/5), Univision (1.4/4) and USA (1.0/3). This was the Alphabet’s first victory since fall.

ABC also led among adults 25-54 (2.5/7) and persons 12-34 (1.9/7), but CBS still held the edge among total viewers (7.1 million to 6.2 million for ABC).

Outside of hoops action, ABC was led by Wednesday’s “Wipeout” (3.0/10 in 18-49, 8.44m), although its solid showing kicking off the night led into a pair of feeble firstrun performances: comedy “The Goode Family” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.44m) and drama “The Unusuals” (0.9/3, 2.93m).

NBC had some solid showings in the 10 o’clock hour as it held back the finales of a few dramas to give Conan O’Brien a stronger lead-in in his first week on “The Tonight Show.” Standout was Tuesday’s “Law and Order: SVU” (3.5/10 in 18-49, 11.56m), which dominated its Tuesday slot and was the week’s No. 1 scripted skein.

The Peacock did OK with its two-night news spec “Inside the Obama White House” on Tuesday (2.6/7 in 18-49, 9.17m) and Wednesday (2.3/7, 9.04m) and won Saturday with Game 5 of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals (1.8/7, 4.45m). It also started out fine with “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” (2.6/8, 6.45m), though the multi-night skein lost steam thereafter.

NBC’s Canadian import drama series “The Listener” got off to a slow start with its two-hour launch on Thursday (1.4/4, 5.32m). It was a very curious preem date, bowing opposite not only Game 1 of the NBA Finals but also the debuts of “Burn Notice” and “Royal Pains” on sister cabler USA.

Fox was propped up by “So You Think You Can Dance,” which landed in the week’s top 10 with its segs on both Wednesday (3.4/10 in 18-49, 8.85m) and Thursday (3.1/9m 8.17m).

Net’s firstrun Tuesday drama “Mental” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 4.89m) isn’t going gangbusters but it did again build a bit on its repeat “House” lead-in (1.4/4, 4.08m).

CBS placed all four of its repeat Monday laffers among the week’s top 10 — led by “Two and a Half Men” (3.1/9 in 18-49, 10.10m) — but didn’t do a whole lot else. On Sunday, the 63rd annual Tony Awards (1.3/4 in 18-49, 7.43m) rose to the kudocast’s best scores in three years, though it still placed third in its timeslot among 18-49ers.

At CW, “Hitched or Ditched” is hanging in there (0.6/2 in 18-49, 1.40m) given the net’s very low circulation elsewhere. Net averaged just 1.04 million viewers last week, placing eighth among the broadcasters and 27th among all networks.

In cable, USA successfully launched its latest drama, “Royal Pains,” on Thursday (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.57m), retaining about 90% of its lead-in from hot returning series “Burn Notice” (1.9/5, 5.99m).

E! had a good week, capped Sunday by the preem of celebreality series “Kendra” (starring Kendra Wilkinson of “Girls Next Door” fame), which became the second best debut for a series in the net’s history (1.5/4 in 18-49, 2.57m) — behind only “The Anna Nicole Show” in 2002.

Outside of primetime, the net’s latenight skein “Chelsea Lately” hit a high Wednesday, drawing 1.05 million viewers.

And Discovery stood as the No. 1 cabler from 9 to 11 p.m. Tuesday with “Deadliest Catch” (1.8/5, 3.66m) and “Man vs. Wild” (2.2/6, 3.97m). “Wild,” featuring Will Ferrell, was television’s No. 1 program at 10 p.m. in men 18-34 (3.1/10).

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