NEW YORK — Whatever happened to the summer doldrums?
The weekend delivered huge Nielsens for U.S. Open golf on NBC featuring Tiger Woods at his best, a nationally distributed baseball game on Fox featuring the New York Yankees vs. the New York Mets, the premiere of the record-shattering USA Network series “Dead Zone” and a two-hour “Witchblade” season opener that scored the series’ best numbers ever.
Woods was at it again, his victory at the 102nd U.S. Open on Sunday averaging a humongous 9.3 rating (from 1:30 p.m. to a rain-delayed 8:45 p.m.) — the best overnight ratings for a U.S. Open golf match since Nielsen began tracking the overnights in 1975.
NBC said the big numbers came in spite of the 50-minute rain delay, but other researchers said the network was probably helped by the downpour because the tournament dragged well into primetime, when many more people are watching TV. For example, from 8-8:30, the rating soared to a 14.0 as Woods edged out Phil Mickelson to achieve his second U.S. Open victory.
The Fox Network delivered a 3.9 rating on Saturday afternoon, feeding the Yankees-Mets game — something of a grudge match between Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens and Mets catcher Mike Piazza — to 70% of its total households. The 3.9 rating ended up 30% higher than that of last year’s corresponding game. In three Saturday-afternoon games to date, Fox has averaged a 3.7 rating, up 6% from the first three baseball telecasts of 2001.
For “Dead Zone,” USA’s heavily promoted spinoff of the Stephen King novel and David Cronenberg’s theatrical-movie adaptation, the network harvested a 5.1 rating in cable homes on Sunday (10-11 p.m.) in the metered-market overnights. That’s the best rating ever chalked up by USA for the debut of a new series, substantially above the network’s previous record for a debut episode, William Shatner’s “Tek War,” which averaged a 3.4 rating in January 1995.
And TNT started the second season of its successful “Witchblade” series with a bang, coming up with a 3.1 rating in cable homes for the two-hour premiere (8-10 p.m.) in metered markets. The show’s previous high was a 2.7, which it scored twice last season, on its premiere night and during its season finale. Over all, “Witchblade” averaged a 2.3 rating last season for the first run of each the 11 episodes.
NBC expressed satisfaction with the network premiere of Dick Wolf’s hourlong reality series “Crime & Punishment,” which kicked off Sunday night at 10 with 11.05 million total viewers, putting it No. 2 by a hair behind the third hour of CBS theatrical “The Negotiator,” with 11.07 million.
“Crime & Punishment” also finished a fairly close second to “Negotiator” in adults 18-49. “Negotiator” wound up with a 4.1 rating in 18-49s and “Crime” scared up a 3.7 rating in the category.