Stephen King’s Under the Dome Drama Is a Hit for CBS

Four weeks in, ambitious summer series is still going strong

Four episodes in and it’s clear that CBS has a rare summer drama hit on its hands with Under the Dome, a claustrophobic yarn about a small town that is hermetically sealed under what amounts to a gigantic impermeable snow globe. Now the only question is when the network will make the renewal official.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, Monday night’s installment of Under the Dome averaged 11.1 million viewers and a 2.7 rating in the adults 18-49 demo. The episode, titled “Outbreak,” also put up a robust 3.5 in CBS’s target demo, adults 25-54.

Through the first four weeks, Dome is averaging 11.8 million viewers, a 2.9 in the 18-49 demo and a 3.9 in the dollar demo. Despite airing on balmy, low-HUT level Monday nights, Dome is on pace to out-deliver every single scripted series that bowed during the 2013-14 broadcast season.

Dome premiered June 24 to a whopping 13.5 million viewers and a 3.3 rating among the 18-49 set. It now stands as the most-watched summer launch since 1992.

Produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television and CBS Television Studios and based on Stephen King’s 1,074-page doorstop, Under the Dome may be the single most ambitious network series to air during the hot and sticky months. Boasting a $40 million budget—one that was wholly defrayed by an early streaming deal with Amazon and an international syndication agreement—Dome is that rarest of beasts, a big reach vehicle that succeeds despite the fact that fewer people are watching TV than in any other time of the year. (Over the last five seasons, July HUT levels have dropped 12 percent from the peaks attained in late fall/early winter.)

Dome’s big deliveries have come at the expense of two other scripted dramas. In four weeks of head-to-head competition in the Monday 10 p.m. slot, ABC’s sudsy Mistresses is averaging just 3.63 million viewers and a 1.1 in the 18-49 demo, while NBC’s Siberia is faring even worse. The first three installments of the found-footage thriller drew 2.68 million viewers and a 0.9 in the demo.

Last night, cable posed a bigger threat to Dome than did its broadcast rivals. ESPN’s Home Run Derby averaged 6.65 million viewers and a 2.6 in the demo, while the third hour of USA Network’s WWE Raw delivered 4.27 million viewers and a 1.6 rating. To add insult to injury, VH1’s Love and Hip Hop Atlanta topped Siberia by one-tenth of a ratings point, while MTV’s Teen Wolf tied NBC’s broadcast with a 0.8 in the demo.

While Dome is the only new broadcast series that’s been able to grab viewers by their summer-weight lapels, a number of cable offerings have made their mark. After Ray Donovan premiered June 30 to record numbers (more than 6 million viewers, including encores and on-demand platforms), Showtime gave a quick renewal to the Liev Schreiber vehicle. FX’s atmospheric newcomer The Bridge also set a high-water mark, premiering to 4.64 million viewers and a 1.5 in the 18-49 demo, per live-plus-three-day data, while TNT’s third ampersand-bearing title, King & Maxwell, is averaging 2.96 million viewers in its Monday 10 p.m. slot.

On the whole, the new summer broadcast dramas have failed to strike a chord with viewers. Along with the underperforming Mistresses and Siberia, three other newbies have struggled. ABC’s Canadian import Motive is averaging 5.63 million viewers and a 1.1 rating in the Thursday 9 p.m. slot, while NBC’s crime drama of French origin, Crossing Lines, is drawing little heat on Sunday nights. Through its first four episodes, Crossing Lines is averaging 3.46 million viewers and a 0.6 in the demo.

The jury’s still out on NBC’s Camp, which last week won its premiere time slot (Wednesday at 10 p.m.) with an average draw of 5 million viewers and a 1.5 rating. The hour-long comedy-drama mashup stars Rachel Griffiths as the newly divorced proprietor of the Little Otter Family Camp.