NBA Finals, Stanley Cup boost networks

For one final week anyway, the broadcasters were good sports in primetime.

Coverage of the NBA Finals helped ABC rule the ratings race in all key categories, while NBC also showed some life with the Stanley Cup Finals, whose deciding game racked up hockey’s largest postseason aud since the ’70s.

But as sports temporarily propped up the numbers of the Alphabet and Peacock, these nets and all of broadcast will now look to survive on mostly reality and repeats until the NFL kicks off after Labor Day.

Old nonscripted reliables like “Big Brother” on CBS and “America’s Got Talent” on NBC will boost circulation when they kick off soon, while ABC has high hopes for “Superstars,” which bows next week. And Fox vet “So You Think You Can Dance” is the hottest thing in the early going this summer.

Summer, however, remains the time when cable fires off its big guns, with HBO’s “True Blood” and TNT’s “The Closer” putting up good numbers last week and USA newbie “Royal Pains” looking very strong in its second try.

Overall for the week of June 8-14, according to Nielsen estimates, ABC cruised to victory in adults 18-49 with a 2.7 rating/9 share, followed by Fox (1.8/6), NBC (1.7/5), CBS (1.4/5), Univision (1.3/4) and USA (1.0/3).

Alphabet also was the easy leader in adults 25-54 (2.9/8) while winning by smaller margins in persons 12-34 (1.8/6) and total viewers (7.3 million).

The final three games of the NBA Finals were the top programs of the June 8-14 frame: Thursday’s Game 4 (6.4/20 in 18-49, 15.96 million viewers overall), Tuesday’s Game 3 (5.9/17, 14.20m) and Sunday’s Game 5 clincher (5.7/17, 14.17m). Game 4, the highest rated in the series, delivered the top numbers for any telecast since the season finale of Fox’s “American Idol” last month.

Five-game average for the Lakers and Orlando Magic (5.9/17 in 18-49, 14.35 million viewers overall) was down just slightly from last year’s Lakers-Boston Celtics six-game average and the second best in five years. In a good sign for the future of the league, this year’s Finals delivered the top score among teens (3.9/16) and kids 2-11 (2.0/9) in five years.

The Alphabet also had reason to be happy with its “Jimmy Kimmel Live” game-night specs airing before basketball in much of the country and after it in the West. The five-night average was up a bit over last year (1.1/4 vs. 1.0/3 in 18-49 and 3.2 million viewers overall vs. 3.0 million) even though the games were down.

After ABC’s coverage of hoops, the next highest-rated program of the week in demos was NBC’s Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals (3.4/12 in 18-49, 7.99m) — the most-watched NHL game in 36 years. Game’s 12 share in 18-49 towered over everything else on television Friday, with no other program topping a 5.

Broadcast’s only firstrun entertainment programs to do much during the frame were Fox’s consistent “So You Think You Can Dance” on Wednesday (3.3/10 in 18-49, 8.69m) and Thursday (3.3/9, 8.65m) and ABC’s “Wipeout” on Wednesday (3.0/9, 8.49m). Also, ABC’s “The Bachelorette” (2.5/7, 7.19m) remains solid and no doubt will build to bigger numbers as it nears its finale.

And summer’s reputation as a place for broadcasters to burn off low-rated scripted fare was only burnished last week by anemic scores for ABC’s “The Unusuals” (1.3/4, 4.40m) and “Pushing Daisies” (0.6/2, 2.18m) and NBC’s “The Listener” (1.3/4, 4.44m).

Among cable highlights was an impressive second-week showing for USA’s Thursday drama “Royal Pains” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 5.59m), which built on its premiere score across the board even though lead-in “Burn Notice” (1.6/5, 5.24m) was down. “Royal Pains” beat out NBC’s competing “The Listener” and also topped a repeat of CBS’ “The Mentalist” among the under-50 crowd.

In the same hour, MTV got off to a nice start for its series “16 and Pregnant” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.64m), which tripled its lead-in in several categories and stood as cable’s No. 1 series of the night in femmes 12-34 (1.8/6).

Cartoon Network’s latest animated series, “Total Drama Action,” bowed Thursday to impressive numbers (2.84 million viewers), ruling as the No. 1 program of the day (broadcast and cable) among kids 6-11 (1.35 million), tweens 9-14 (1.16 million) and all key boy demos.

Kicking off its second season, HBO’s “True Blood” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 3.70m) delivered huge gains vs. its series preem and stood as the No. 20 show of the week in 18-49 and No. 12 in adults 18-34 (2.1/6).

And TNT’s “The Closer” returned Monday with potent numbers (1.7/5 in 18-49, 7.14m) — ranking 23rd for the week in adults 25-54 (2.4/6) — but lead-out “Raising the Bar” struggled in its return (0.9/2, 3.57m).

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