Hockey, summer premieres also shine in ratings

A competitive, marquee matchup in the NBA Finals is good news for ABC, which is delivering the event’s largest early audience in six years.

Basketball fans are always interested in the Los Angeles Lakers, but throw the rival Boston Celtics into the mix, and you’ve got the potential for some nifty Nielsen numbers. The teams split the first two games, likely portending a six or seven-game series, which will mean even bigger ratings.

NBC is doing better than usual, too, with its similarly attractive pairing of old-time, big-market teams (Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers) in hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals. The Peacock nearly caught Fox second among young adults.

Cable also made more noise last week, as summer’s first stanza saw strong returns for “Burn Notice” and “Royal Pains” to USA and impressive numbers for Nickelodeon’s “iCarly”-led Friday lineup.

Overall, according to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, ABC prevailed in adults 18-49 with a 2.6 rating/8 share, followed by Fox (2.0/6), NBC (1.9/6), CBS (1.4/4), Univision (1.3/4) and USA (1.0/3). The Alphabet led in various other demo categories, too, including adults 25-54 (2.8/8) and persons 12-34 (2.1/8), and also led in total viewers (7.15 million).

Sunday’s Game 2 of the NBA Finals, in which the Celtics rallied late to win, averaged a big 6.5 rating/18 share in adults 18-49 and 15.72 million viewers overall — a 12% gain over last year’s second contest (Lakers-Orlando Magic) and 18% better than the last time Boston and L.A. met, two years ago.

The two-game average repped the best for the NBA Finals since 2004 (Lakers-Detroit Pistons).

ABC also got help last week from a special two-hour preview episode of its summer hit “Wipeout” (3.1/9 in 18-49, 8.37m) as well as solid numbers for Monday’s “The Bachelorette” (2.5/7, 7.64m) and “True Beauty” (2.0/6, 5.25m).

But the “Scripps National Spelling Bee” didn’t buzz on Friday (0.9/3 in 18-49, 4.00m), as the novelty appears to have worn off after the initial telecast several years ago produced surprisingly strong scores.

Fox was paced by the season’s penultimate episode of rookie hit “Glee” (3.9/11 in 18-49, 9.02m), which was the week’s No. 1 entertainment program in demos and logged its best delivery to date for a seg not following “American Idol.”

Also, “So You Think You Can Dance” ranked in the top 10 with its two-hour installments on both Wednesday (2.8/9, 7.44m) and Thursday (3.3/11, 8.69m), and “Hell’s Kitchen” opened well on Tuesday (2.9/10, 6.22m) despite facing two other top reality shows in its hour.

On Monday of the current week, Fox’s “The Good Guys” started slowly (1.4/4, 4.56m), falling from its firstrun lead-in of “Lie to Me” (1.8/6, 6.06m). Net will hope “Guys” can recruit a bigger aud as the summer progresses as the action-comedy is set to air on Fridays this fall.

For NBC, both of its Stanley Cup Final contests ranked in the top 20, led by Monday’s Game 2 (2.5/7 in 18-49, 5.89m). The net was averaging 5.39 million viewers for its first three games, the best Stanley Cup viewership at this point in eight years (5.77 million in 2002 for Carolina-Detroit on ABC).

The Peacock also welcomed back “America’s Got Talent” (3.6/11 in 18-49, 12.35m), which won its two-hour slot Tuesday and was up year to year as auds tuned in for the debut of host Howie Mandel. Show then dipped some on Wednesday but logged another weekly top-10 perf (2.9/9, 7.44m).

Following “Talent” on Tuesday, the series premiere of “Losing It With Jillian” (2.6/8, 6.44m), a quasi-“Biggest Loser” spinoff, won its hour among young adults.

CBS had its typically slow start to summer, placing fourth in all key demos and led by repeat comedies “The Big Bang Theory” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 9.47m) and “Two and a Half Men” (2.7/7, 9.85m).

Its lone firstrun programs were the Friday dramas “Flashpoint” (1.3/5 in 18-49, 6.06m) and “Miami Medical” (1.3/4, 6.11m), both of which did OK by the night’s low standards.

CW aired nothing but repeats and paid for it, ranking 17th among adults 18-34. Thursday marked the net’s preem of former CBS drama “Moonlight” (0.5/2, 1.43m), which did about as well as repeat lead-in “The Vampire Diaries” (0.5/2, 1.22m).

The week’s top cable program among young adults was Sunday’s “MTV Movie Awards” on MTV (2.3/6, 4.62m), with the kudocast also drawing more than 700,000 viewers for its simulcast on VH1.

Usual cable leader USA returned to the top of the cable network rankings (following the conclusion of NBA playoff action on TNT and ESPN), as dramas “Burn Notice” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 6.62m) and “Royal Pains” (1.8/5, 5.84m) looked good in their season preems — standing as the week’s top two cable programs in adults 25-54 and rising across the board vs. their preems of last summer.

Also of note in cable was a strong performance by Nickelodeon’s live-action Friday series, led by “iCarly,” whose hourlong movie “iPsycho” drew 7.5 million viewers. It led into record numbers for new episodes of “Victorious” (6 million) and “Big Time Rush” (4.7 million).

Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” had a solid bow on Sunday (3.12 million viewers), up across the board vs. its year-ago series preem. Also bowing well on that night were TLC’s “Kate Plus 8″ (3.38 million), Food Network’s “Next Food Network Star” (3.03 million) and History’s new season of “Ice Road Truckers” (2.38 million, and cable’s No. 1 series of the night in men 18-49).

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