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Dynamic ‘Dome’ Helps CBS Shake Off Summer Slumber

Big-budget project from Stephen King and Steven Spielberg the biggest new scripted summer skein in more than 20 years

Thanks to monster ratings for CBS’ “Under the Dome,” broadcasters appear to have stopped the summer bleeding. But it will take more work — and first-class scripted programming — to truly save the patient.

This summer, the five English-language broadcast networks have combined for the same 20 share of the adults 18-49 viewing pie that they attracted a year ago, according to Nielsen data from May 27-July 21.

While this isn’t saying much, it’s the first time the share hasn’t decreased at this point in the summer in five years.

And in adults 25-54, this off-season’s 21 share is up from last year’s 20. Overall tune-in, meanwhile, is around 21.1 million, off 2% from last year (21.6 million).

SEE ALSO: TCA: CBS Renews ‘Under The Dome’ for Summer 2014

After years of filling summer only with tired reality concepts dressed in shiny new wrapping and scripted series that were either burnoffs or came with considerably lesser production values, “Under the Dome” was a breath of fresh air — and grateful audiences immediately responded. The big-budget project from Stephen King and Steven Spielberg premiered to an overall aud of 13.5 million viewers that swelled to 17.8 million with DVR playback, making it the biggest new scripted summer skein in more than 20 years.

It has been especially dominant relative to everything else this summer, with its 3.5 in adults 18-49 more than double the rating of any other new program.

“Dome” was a financial winner for CBS before it ever aired, as the net aggressively tapped into two big revenue sources: Internet streaming services and international syndication sales.

SEE ALSO: Anatomy of a 2013 Hit: CBS’ ‘Under the Dome’ Premiere at 20 Million

It’s the first of what promises to be a slew of “limited-run” or “event” programs the nets know they need to regain viewers in the warm-weather months, with Fox’s return of “24” among the projects that should heat things up next summer.

There’s no doubt it has become harder and harder for new reality series to break out — and this summer saw another string of disappointments, including ABC’s “Whodunnit?,” Fox’s “Does Someone Have to Go?” and CBS’ “The American Baking Competition.”

At NBC, “Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls” bowed July 8 with a 1.5 rating in adults 18-49, followed a few days later by “Hollywood Game Night” at a 1.4. These may be cancel-worthy numbers by regular-season standards, but they represent the best of the weak unscripted bunch to bow this summer.

CBS, which has seen ratings for its summer repeats slide in the DVR era, is counting on “Under the Dome” and another scripted original, the once-canceled crime drama “Unforgettable,” which returned July 28.

SEE ALSO: CBS Tucks Movie Ad Cash Under Its ‘Dome’

The Eye and CW (whose “Whose Line Is It Anyway” revival opened to solid numbers) are flat in 18-49 vs. last year, while NBC is up 7%. ABC (whose “The Bachelorette” is down 18%) has slid 6%, and Fox (whose “So You Think You Can Dance” has tumbled 21%) is off 16%.

NBC got an early boost by extending “The Voice” four weeks into summer, a strategy that others could emulate going forward. It and “America’s Got Talent” (the No. 2 series of summer, behind “Under the Dome”) have helped compensate for low-rated original dramas “Siberia” and “Crossing Lines,” both of which were made on reduced budgets.

ABC’s “Mistresses” and “Motive” are doing modest but acceptable scripted summer numbers, while new series “The Lookout” has underwhelmed.

TNT’s “Falling Skies” is basic cable’s No. 1 scripted series in adults 18-49 (1.7, on par with last summer), while the top newcomers are USA’s “Graceland,” VH1’s “Hit the Floor” and Lifetime’s “Devious Maids” (all at 1.1). ABC Family has seen rising numbers of late for its lesbian-moms family drama “The Fosters,” which is cable’s top new show in viewers 12-34.

Hottest newcomers in reality have been “Breaking Amish” spinoff “Brave New World” on TLC (1.2 rating in 18-49) and Discovery’s “Naked and Afraid” (1.1).

In total viewers, TNT vet “Rizzoli & Isles” is the biggest scripted cable series this summer (7.2 million), while the most popular rookie scripted skeins are TNT’s “King & Maxwell” (4 million), USA’s “Graceland” (3.6 million) and Nick’s “Sam & Cat” (3.4 million).

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