CBS on Monday drew a huge crowd with the premiere of its ambitious scripted series, Under the Dome, delivering 13.5 million total viewers and a staggering 3.3 in the adults 18-49 demo.
While it debuted on a sleepy summer weeknight, Under the Dome’s live-plus-same-day ratings topped the deliveries for every CBS series premiere of the 2012-13 broadcast season. (Elementary bowed Sept. 27 to a 3.1 in the dollar demo; runner-up Vegas opened two nights earlier to a 2.5 rating.)
Dome’s ratings established it as the year’s second-biggest premiere. NBC’s Revolution earned the highest marks for a newcomer when it debuted out of The Voice on Sept. 17 (4.1).
The 25-54 set also turned up in droves, as Dome drew a whopping 4.5 in the demo. By way of comparison, Elementary premiered to a 4.0.
Per Nielsen, Dome now stands as the most-watched summer premiere since 1992 when CBS rolled out the campy nighttime soap 2000 Malibu Road. Starring Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Beals, the limited series bowed to 14.8 million viewers.
Produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television and CBS Television Studios and based on Stephen King’s 2009 doorstop, Under the Dome may be the single most gumptious network series to air during the hot and sticky months. (When was the last time a broadcaster gave the green light to a summer show with a $40 million budget?)
Because CBS has been shrewd about finding new revenue streams beyond the ad sales model (the network is on track to bring in $1 billion in retrans consent fees by 2016), it should come as no surprise that the network minimized any monetary risk associated with Dome before the first day of shooting began. According to CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves, a lucrative streaming deal with Amazon and an international syndication deal effectively paid for the production costs.
“Combining Amazon with the international syndication deal makes Under the Dome profitable immediately,” Moonves told investors last month. “So you may see more original programming on during the year. But only if it’s backed up by the ability to monetize it elsewhere.”
If the ad inventory makes Under the Dome a pure profit venture, last night’s deliveries also prove that viewers will find quality scripted content, no matter where it airs. Although we’ve been conditioned to look to the likes of AMC, FX, TNT, USA Network, HBO and Showtime for hot-weather drama, Dome’s early performance suggests that at least one broadcaster is getting its summertime mojo back.
Of course, the other networks haven’t had anywhere near the success of CBS. ABC’s new Canadian import Motive is averaging 6.1 million viewers and a 1.3 in the 18-49 demo, while its sudsy Mistresses is drawing 3.99 million viewers and a 1.2 rating. Meanwhile, NBC’s Crossing Lines was dead on arrival, bowing Sunday night to 4.38 million viewers and a 0.7 in the demo.
It will be interesting to see how Under the Dome fares in its second outing, given that it went head-to-head with hockey's Stanley Cup Final broadcast on NBC. The Chicago Blackhawks’ thrilling 3-2 clincher over the Boston Bruins in Game 6 drew 8.16 million viewers and a 3.3 in the 18-49 demo.
In an unprecedented show of late-game heroics, Chicago scored twice in 17 seconds to eliminate the Bruins. Bryan Bickell snuck in the tying goal with 1:16 to go in the third period, and Blackhawks center Dave Bolland closed things out from the left post with 58.3 seconds remaining on the clock.
Game 6 was the ninth most-watched Stanley Cup Final broadcast in history. CBS notched the all-time record on May 18, 1971, drawing 12.4 million viewers with Game 7 of the Montreal-Chicago title bout.
With hockey out of the picture, Dome returns July 1 against two other network dramas. ABC trots out the fifth installment of the aforementioned Mistresses in the Monday 10 p.m. slot, while NBC counters with its own new scripted effort. The found-footage thriller Siberia is set in the desolate Russian forest leveled by the so-called “Tunguska event” of 1908. Said to be caused by everything from a gigantic meteor to a plummeting hunk of antimatter, the mysterious explosion destroyed 770 square miles of timberland.