CBS Orders Second Season of Under the Dome

Stephen King thriller is a summertime smash

CBS on Monday announced that it has picked up the supernatural thriller Under the Dome for a second season, ordering 13 episodes to air in summer 2014.

The renewal was expected, given the uncharacteristically strong ratings the show has delivered in its first five installments. Dome debuted on Monday, June 24, to 13.5 million viewers, a 3.3 rating in the adults 18-49 demo and a 4.5 among the 25-54 set.

Since then, Dome has retained 85 percent of its overall deliveries. Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the show is averaging 11.7 million viewers, a 2.9 in the 18-49 demo and a 3.8 with adults 25-54.

To put Dome’s ratings in context, it is on pace to outdeliver and outrate every new series of the 2012-13 broadcast season. CBS’ Elementary was the most-watched newcomer (11.1 million viewers over 23 episodes), while Fox’s The Following and NBC’s Revolution beat all comers in the 18-49 demo (2.6). 

(Of course, it can be argued that Dome wouldn’t fare as well as an in-season program where it would, hypothetically, compete against Revolution and ABC’s Castle. But therein lies the argument that has led broadcasters to more actively pursue higher-quality summer shows in the first place—as well as serialized/“event” fare like Fox’s resurrected 24/Sleepy Hollow/Almost Human and CBS’ Hostages/Intelligence. Supply has to keep pace with demand.)

When DVR playback, VOD and streaming data are tossed into the mix, the show’s deliveries are even gaudier. Seven days of time-shifted viewing bumped the premiere episode’s numbers to 19.9 million viewers, a 4.6 18-49 rating and a 6.1 among the 25-54 demo.  

A $40 billion drama produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television and CBS Television Studios, Dome is the most successful scripted network series in memory. The ratings are particularly impressive given that fewer people watch TV in the summer months. Over the last five seasons, July HUT levels have dropped 12 percent from the peaks attained in late fall/early winter.

Dome is based on Stephen King’s 2009 novel. Ironically, the 1,074-page colossus functions as an allegory about the environment.

King will write the screenplay for the Season 2 premiere.

“We’re excited to tell more stories about the mystery of the dome and the secrets in Chester’s Mill, and are thrilled to have the master storyteller himself, Stephen King, tell the first one of next season,” said CBS Entertainment president Nina Tassler, by way of announcing the renewal.

While Dome’s success proves that network TV needn’t concede the summer months to cable, most of the other broadcast dramas are wilting in the heat. In head-to-head competition with CBS’ juggernaut, the NBC drama Siberia is averaging a mere 2.68 million viewers and a 0.9 in the dollar demo. ABC’s Mistresses is faring a little better in the Monday 10 p.m. time slot, averaging 3.86 million viewers and a 1.2 in the demo.

New dramas Motive, Camp and Crossing Lines are also struggling in the heat, while burnoffs Zero Hour and Do No Harm are faring about as poorly as one would expect. The good news for weary viewers: The 2013-14 TV season officially kicks off in 10 weeks.