Hoops, 'Hatfields' help cablers top broadcast networks

Clashes on the basketball court and in the post-Civil War South highlighted ratings action for the first week of television’s summer season, which saw the Big Four take a backseat to cable.

“America’s Got Talent” still performed well for NBC, and “So You Think You Can Dance” remains a solid player for Fox, but with all the big season finales wrapped up, broadcasters didn’t stand a chance as cable came at them with guns ablazing.

The three-night History miniseries “Hatfields and McCoys” set audience records for ad-supported cable (Daily Variety, June 1), helping the cabler finish second to basketball-boosted ESPN for the week in adults 18-49 while also edging out CBS as primetime’s most-watched network overall for the first time.

NBA Playoffs action, meanwhile, also scored well, especially the Eastern Conference finals between Boston and Miami, which aired on ESPN.

Together, hoops and “Hatfields” combined for nine of the week’s top 10 primetime programs among adults 18-49 in the most dominant showing on record for cable.

Nielsen estimates that overall for the May 28-June 3 sesh, ESPN led in adults 18-49 with a 1.9 rating/6 share, followed by History (1.7/5), NBC (1.5/5) and ABC and Univision (both 1.3/4). Fox (1.2/4) tied TNT for sixth, while CBS ran seventh (1.1/3).

History led everybody in adults 25-54 (2.2/6) and total viewers (6 million to 5.9 million for CBS).

“Hatfields and McCoys” peaked with its Wednesday conclusion, which averaged a 4.0 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 while drawing 14.29 million viewers overall. Not only did it rack up the largest aud on record for an ad-supported non-sports cable telecast, but its adults 25-54 audience (6.3 million) was the best on basic cable since USA miniseries “Moby Dick” in 1998.

For the three nights, “Hatfields” averaged 13.8 million viewers overall, including 6 million adults 25-54 and 4.9 million adults 18-49.

Over at ESPN, Sunday’s Game 4 of the NBA’s Eastern finals drew what’s believed to be the largest pro hoops aud to date on cable (11.07 million) and was the week’s No. 1 program in 18-49 (4.9/16).

TNT didn’t fare quite as well with the Western finals between Oklahoma City and San Antonio, but two of the series’ contests ranked among the week’s top 10 in 18-49. Faring best was Tuesday’s game (3.2/11, 7.30m).

Other cable highlights included series highs for HBO’s season finale of “Game of Thrones” (2.2/7, 4.20m), while “Longmire” (0.8/2, 4.15m) became A&E’s most-watched series premiere on record.

At the broadcast nets, NBC’s Tuesday edition of “America’s Got Talent” remained the standout performer (3.7/10, 11.51m) and was the only Big Four program in the week’s top 10 in 18-49. The broadly appealing contest series also was the No. 1 broadcast show in every key category — adults, men and women 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, plus total viewers, kids 2-11 and teens 12-17.

Elsewhere, the top original broadcast scripted series was ABC Thursday cop show “Rookie Blue” (1.4/4, 5.65m) — a bit higher than the finales of Fox’s “Touched” (1.3/4, 4.60m) and ABC’s “Cougar Town” (1.2/4, 3.42m).

As for reality series, ABC’s “Duets” (1.5/5, 5.92m) dipped in its second week, faring about as well as the net’s just-launched second seasons of “Secret Millionaire” (1.5/5, 5.66m) and “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition” (1.5/4, 4.54m) on Sunday.

NBC saw low numbers for the opening two games of hockey’s Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, with each game settling for a 1.1 rating in 18-49 and about 2.9 million viewers overall. Sunday’s “Miss USA Pageant” (1.8/5, 6.29m) did OK but was down year to year.

CBS didn’t do much with its reality series debut of “Dogs in the City” Wednesday (1.3/4, 6.72m).

And it remains a struggle for CW to launch anything these days, with its two unscripted skeins bowing last week — “The Catalina” on Tuesday and “Breaking Pointe” on Thursday — drawing less than 1 million viewers.

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