An alien invasion and a well-dressed attorney set the programming bar for scripted cable fare this summer, while the “Jersey Shore” gang said “Ciao” to their new Italian neighbors in a big way.
Overall, USA Network sizzled in the hot season — May 30 through Aug. 21 — racking up top cabler status in all significant demos as well as total viewers. When final summers come in, the net could break its own — and cable’s all-time — record for most summer viewers. The mark was set in 2009 with an average of 3.9 million viewers watching the net in primetime.
Hot freshman series “Suits,” along with another solid rookie, “Necessary Roughness,” helped the cabler top all competition. “Suits” drew 5.9 million with “Roughness” just behind at 5.4 million. The two skeins helped complement a lineup that already included hit dramas like “Royal Pains,” “Burn Notice” and “White Collar.”
TNT, however, had the top new show of the season in key demos. Noah Wyle starrer and Steven Spielberg-produced “Falling Skies” drew 6.9 million total viewers, 3.2 million in the 18-49 demo and 3.7 million in the 25-54 demo.
TNT, in fact, had three other solid performers besides “Falling Skies.” “Rizzoli & Isles” remained a force in its second season with 8 million viewers tuning in, and “The Closer” was just below that at 7.9 million. Newcomer “Franklin & Bash” was the fourth highest-rated freshman show, as the courtroom buddy dramedy averaged 3.9 million viewers.
The most popular program of the summer was the July 17 afternoon telecast finals of the women’s World Cup. The soccer match was a worldwide phenomenon as 13.4 million watched Japan defeat the United States in a shootout. And tops in primetime was Disney Channel’s tyke-friendly “Phineas and Ferb Movie,” which garnered 10.6 million viewers in final live plus seven-day averages.
“Jersey Shore” averaged 8.5 million in total viewers and was summer’s most-watched cable series overall. Over the last few weeks, it has led all of primetime — broadcast and cable — in adults 18-49.
Other reality skeins to fare well were History’s “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” with 7.2 million and 6 million, respectively.
History saw big improvement from a year ago. The A&E-owned net was up 38% in overall viewers and 34% in the 25-54 demo. The only other cabler among the top 10 in total viewers to see a double-digit increase was FX with a 20% bump.
Of top 10 networks in the 18-49 demo, History, FX, MTV and A&E were up double digits while Discovery and TBS were down 11% and 20%, respectively.
For the news cablers, Fox News was tops. Channel averaged 1.8 million viewers in primetime, more than double what CNN and MSNBC could muster.
However, Fox News was down 4% in total viewers and 9% in 25-54 from last summer while CNN was up in both categories in double digits and MSNBC seeing a slight increase as well.
While live viewing is basically flat, time-shifted viewing continues to rise. Audiences in summer watched approximately 2 1/2 hours on either DVR, broadband, video on demand or repeat telecasts. That’s a major leap compared to 2006, when viewers only watched approximately 20 minutes a week on a time-shifted basis.
Overall, cable dominated broadcast in overall summer viewing. In household shares, cable captured 74% of the audience compared to 26% for the Big Four broadcasters, a gulf that has widened considerably over the last decade.