NBA playoffs again dominated the primetime ratings race last week, with ESPN emerging as television’s top-rated network among young adults for a second straight week.
Pro basketball is wrapping a bit later than usual this season (following the resolution of a labor lockout late last year), and that has meant that the conference finals didn’t start until after the finales of the top broadcast series. Instead, hoops action on cable dominated the first two weeks post-Memorial Day, with ABC now taking over coverage of the finals.
ESPN aired the Eastern Conference finals this year, and the series between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics proved to be attractive to viewers. Saturday’s deciding seventh game was easily the week’s top-rated program in both adults 18-49 (5.6/20) and total viewers (13.35 million), according to Nielsen.
TNT scored sizable numbers as well for the Western finals between Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Its top-rated game, Wednesday’s sixth and final contest, ranked fourth for the week in the demo (4.1/12, 9.50m).
The broadcasters, meanwhile, are still waiting for a breakout summer reality show, as Fox’s dating skeins “Take Me Out” and “The Choice” did OK with 5 shares for their preems on Thursday, but ABC’s “Duets” dipped to a 4 share in its third week, and CBS’ “Dogs in the City” settled for a meager 3 share in its second outing on Wednesday.
At NBC, G4 series “American Ninja Warrior” is doing OK in its first season on the Peacock (a 6 share behind “America’s Got Talent” on Monday), while the second-season premiere of “Love in the Wild” did a 4 share on Tuesday (also behind “Talent”).
And then there’s CW, which has added more original programming this summer but has drawn tiny audiences for both “The Catalina” and “Breaking Pointe.”
On the scripted side, ABC’s returning cop show “Rookie Blue” has settled in at a 4 share, while NBC’s “Saving Hope” opened to a weak 2 share Thursday.
Fortunately, summer stalwarts like NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” (3.5/11, 12.55m for its Tuesday edition), Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Hell’s Kitchen” (2.4/7, 5.46m on Monday) and ABC’s “The Bachelorette” (2.2/6, 6.77m) are keeping the lights on for the Big Four.
Overall for the June 4-10 frame, ESPN’s 1.9 rating/6 share in adults 18-49 was followed by Fox (1.5/5), NBC and Univision (1.3/4) and ABC (1.2/4). CBS and TNT tied for sixth (1.1/3).
The Eye still led easily in total viewers (5.8 million).
Cable networks cranked out more original scripted programming, including the return of TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” (1.2/3, 5.62m), which was on par with last year (when it followed “The Closer” on Monday) and stood as basic cable’s top scripted original series for the week in both adults 25-54 (1.6/4) and total viewers. And behind it on Tuesday, “Franklin & Bash” (0.9/2, 3.07) was up over its first-season average and drew the show’s largest overall au dience to date.
ABC’s “Pretty Little Liars” kicked off its season Tuesday (1.1/3, 2.93m), down about 15% in key demos from last year but standing as TV’s No. 1 show for the night in femmes 12-34 (3.8/13). It was followed by the return of “Jane by Design” (0.6/2, 1.36m), which was up over its January premiere when it followed “Switched at Birth.”
In its second week, A&E’s “Longmire” (0.9/2, 4.10m) held onto its premiere audience while gaining young adults, perhaps due to not facing any NBA playoff games this time.
And at HBO, “True Blood” (2.9/9, 5.20m) kicked off its season down slightly from last summer.
In other ratings news, Nielsen put a bow on the 2011-12 season this week as numbers for all full-week DVR playback have been calculated. There were no major changes vs. the preliminary ratings reported a few weeks ago (Daily Variety, May 23), though ABC did earn a share of third place with NBC (still the Peacock finished ahead in round-offs).
NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” stood as the season’s No. 1 show for the first time, while Fox’s “American Idol” edged out NBC’s “The Voice” as the top entertainment series in 18-49.