New Summer Programs Show Ratings Gains for Cable, Less Decline for Broadcast

NEW YORK — As broadcast and cable networks attempt to slough off the summer doldrums by adding new shows, advertisers might want to pay closer attention instead of merely waiting for the fall season to arrive, a study of current primetime shows suggests.

While overall household ratings are down for the summer season’s primetime shows compared to last year, new original television series are in many cases outperforming repeats as well as first-run episodes of returning shows, a report from Initiative Media indicates. NBC, for example, has seen its ratings for original series this summer rise 9 percent over last summer’s new programs.

Though the season isn’t even halfway through, FOX and NBC have had ratings successes with new series like “Dog Eat Dog,” a game show that combines elements from “Weakest Link” and “Fear Factor” hosted by Baywatch alum Brooke Burns, and “American Idol,” a kind of updated “Star Search,” which are currently outperforming original episodes of returning shows, according to the Nielson Media Research relied on by the Initiative study.

Repeat episodes have shown a decline in household ratings from last summer, with ABC showing the greatest drop: 28 percent. FOX was next with a 16 percent fall off and CBS losing 10 percent. NBC had the least reduction in viewership, showing a drop of 6 percent.

Original programming has been a major driving force for cable, which has continued the trend it began last summer by garnering a larger primetime share than the broadcast affiliates in June, noted Stacey Lynn Koerner, a senior vice president for broadcast research at Initiative. Fourteen of the top twenty ad-supported cable networks (not including news or sports channels) have seen across the board ratings gains in key demographics, Koerner said.

“There is an increasing amount of new programs coming from a variety of cable networks,” Koerner said. “So it isn’t just the major cable networks creating the shows. Even smaller networks are developing programming and that’s boosting their collective ratings. and there are several new shows about to unveiled by the cable networks and they are poised to do very well versus broadcast.”