Preseason football a boost for broadcasters

The last week of August saw a passing of the summer torch, as broadcasters picked up steam thanks to a larger serving of preseason pigskin while some of cable’s top shows wrapped their seasons.

CBS, NBC and Fox all benefited from football, with the Peacock logging the best numbers for an NFL exhibition game in three years. And ABC, a laggard in the ratings last week without football, will get a lift of its own from its college franchise “Saturday Night Football,” which bows this week.

On cable, TNT’s “The Closer” and USA’s “Royal Pains” went out strong last week, and HBO’s “True Blood” remained red hot with its penultimate seg of the season. And Disney Channel scored big with telepic “Wizards of Waverly Place Movie,” helping the net draw more primetime viewers than any other cabler for the week.

Overall, according to Nielsen estimates, which include same-night DVR playback, CBS and NBC tied for the week’s lead among adults 18-49 with a 1.8 rating/6 share, followed by Fox (1.7/5), Univision (1.3/4), ABC (1.2/4) and USA (1.0/3).

The Eye also edged out the Peacock for the week’s bragging rights in both adults 25-54 (2.3/7 to 2.2/6) and total viewers (6.6 million to 6.4 million).

For CBS, all three episodes of “Big Brother” finished among the top 15 programs in key categories, led by Thursday’s elimination seg (2.7/9 in 18-49, 7.79m). But the net is not having any luck with its lone reality rookie, Sunday’s “There Goes the Neighborhood” (1.1/3, 3.68m).

The return of the NFL lifted the Eye, as games on Friday (2.1/7 in 18-49, 6.29m for New England-Washington) and Saturday (1.3/5, 4.15m for San Diego-Atlanta) gave the net its best performance of the summer on both nights.

At NBC, the “Sunday Night Football” preseason matchup between Chicago and Denver racked up the best numbers for any NFL exhibition contest (3.5/10 in 18-49, 10.38m) since a Philadelphia-Oakland matchup on NBC in 2006. Game marked the Denver return of former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who was traded to the Bears in the spring.

The Peacock also appeared in the week’s top 5 program rankings with “America’s Got Talent” installments on Tuesday (3.1/9 in 18-49, 11.46m) and Wednesday (3.0/8, 11.19m), with the former the week’s most-watched program overall.

Fox claimed the week’s No. 1 program in 18-49 for a second straight week with Tuesday’s “Hell’s Kitchen” (3.6/12 in 18-49, 7.77m), the frame’s only series to log a double-digit share.

Elsewhere, the net’s best results came courtesy of animated repeats “The Simpsons” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 5.22m) and “Family Guy” (2.4/6, 5.04m) and Thursday’s NFL preseason game between Miami and Tampa Bay (2.1/7, 5.80m), which won the night in under-50 categories.

ABC was led by Wednesday’s “Wipeout” (2.6/8 in 18-49, 7.63m), which led into OK results for the premiere of “Crash Course” (1.9/5, 4.82m). A pair of other rookie alternative series are doing well by summer standards: Sunday’s “Shark Tank” (1.8/5, 4.89m) and Tuesday’s “Shaq Vs.” (1.7/5, 4.14m).

But dragging the Alphabet net down are weak numbers for repeats of serialized scripted shows “Private Practice” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 3.04m), “Grey’s Anatomy” (0.8/2, 3.29m) and “Ugly Betty” (0.5/2, 1.89m).

CW’s broadcast of the “36th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards” on Sunday drew the show’s lowest ratings to date (0.6/2 in 18-49, 2.72m), but it did outperform the net’s weak averages on the night this summer.

Cable highlights for the week included Friday’s “Wizards of Waverly Place Movie” (2.3/8 in 18-49, 11.43m), the most-watched cable telecast of the year (Daily Variety, Aug. 31). It finished as primetime’s No. 1 show in persons 12-34 (3.8/16) and other key demos and finished a close second behind “America’s Got Talent” as the most-watched program of the week.

Subsequent airings of “Waverly” drew 5.8 million viewers on Saturday and 4.7 million more on Sunday.

Among series, TNT’s “The Closer” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 7.39m) and USA’s “Royal Pains” (1.7/5, 5.88m) went out with similar demo deliveries, with the former narrowly topping the latter to rule as cable’s No. 1 show for the frame in adults 25-54 (2.4/6). And Sunday’s “True Blood” rolled (2.8/7, 5.19m) prior to its Sept. 13 finale.

Lifetime rookie “Drop Dead Diva” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 3.41m) hit highs in women 18-49 (1.7/4) and women 25-54 (2.0/5), and Syfy’s “Ghosthunters” (1.3/4, 2.70m) ranked as cable’s No. 1 program in its Wednesday timeslot in 18-49 as well as key male demos.

Also, BET’s “Tiny and Toya” (1.0/3 in 18-49, 2.02m) and premiering “Frankie and Neffe” (1.0/3, 1.95m) ranked second in their Tuesday timeslot among femmes 12-34 (both 1.8/6), lagging only NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”; TV Land’s “How’d You Get So Rich?” surged to series highs on Wednesday in both key demos and total viewers (771,000); and Bio Channel set a network premiere record Sunday with its third-season start of “I Survived” (573,000 viewers).

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