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Summertime Blues: New Off-Season Broadcast Series Founder

Sports and old standbys keeping networks afloat

Final Witness is the lowest-rated premiere for ABC this summer.

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Like a Band-Aid floating in a public swimming pool, broadcast’s new summer series are turning out to be a total bummer.

Of the nine new shows introduced thus far in the sleepy season, only one—Fox’s The Choice—is averaging a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49. What’s more, a few of the freshman efforts have failed to deliver so much as a 1.0 in the advertiser-coveted demo.

The plague of flops has spared no network, although ABC may be a bit more exposed than its rivals. The network has taken the wraps off three new series since the summer began—the singing competition Duets; The Glass House, which might charitably be described as an homage to CBS’ Big Brother; and the true-crime strip Final Witness—and has another in the hopper (Trust Us With Your Life).

Leading out of four repeats Wednesday night, Final Witness bowed to 4.21 million viewers and a 1.0 in the demo, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings. This marks the lowest-rated premiere for ABC this summer, as Duets arrived on May 24 with an audience of 6.76 million viewers and a 1.7 rating, while The Glass House drew 3.98 million viewers and a 1.5 rating in its June 18 debut.

Through its first five episodes, Duets is averaging 5.22 million viewers and a 1.3 in the demo. Given the star power on hand (the judges are the singers Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles and Robin Thicke), those are disappointing numbers, even for a summer series. It’s likely that viewers have had their fill of the musical-competition genre, given the ubiquity of established series like American Idol, The Voice, The X Factor and America’s Got Talent.

The Glass House is in a deeper funk, having lost nearly 900,000 viewers and 27 percent of its premiere demo in its second week on the air. The June 25 installment scared up a mere 3.09 million viewers and a 1.1 rating.

ABC’s top-rated summer series is The Bachelorette, now in its eighth cycle. Remarkably consistent, the heavy-breathing dating show is averaging 7.09 million viewers and a 2.3 in the demo, and is on track to deliver its highest ratings in three seasons.

The network can claim bragging rights to the summer’s biggest draw, as the NBA Finals were the highest-rated five-game series since 2004. The Heat-Thunder showdown averaged 16.9 million viewers and a 7.1 in the demo, up 8 percent from the first five games of last year’s pro hoops finals.

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