First Official Day of Summer Doesn't Mean Sunnier Ratings

Rash Report: Week's Top Ten Relied on Live Sporting Events

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Today is the first official day of summer. But network TV got an early jump on the season, running a week of typical summertime prime time: reruns and reality. But at least for three of the top 10 programs in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, the repeats were sports icons regaining their championship forms as Tiger Woods and the Boston Celtics had fans cheering the original version of reality TV.
Sunday's NBA Finals penultimate Game Five was the top-rated show of the week.
Sunday's NBA Finals penultimate Game Five was the top-rated show of the week. Credit: AP

Drama on the links
NBC's coverage of the U.S. Open, which rode the rays of the San Diego sunshine into prime time on both Saturday and Sunday, was the most compelling competition, as only Woods could take a genteel sport and make it a gritty, gutsy display of playing hurt. The dramatic dénouement of Sunday's last putt -- which moved the championship to a Monday playoff -- may be the best drama on TV this season. Starting in daytime and ending in prime time, the 3.3/14 rating and share was the fifth-highest-rated show this week.

The top two programs were also live sports, but may have lacked some of the intensity. But even if the lopsided wins in the NBA Finals didn't move many viewers to the edge of their seats, there were still plenty in them. Indeed, Sunday's penultimate Game Five, which was the top-rated show of the week with a 7.3/21, actually ranked higher than Tuesday's Game Six (second, 6.9/20), as the clincher was a laugher, with the Celts winning easily 131-92. But the NBA -- despite an amazing, if not alarming, number of fans who believe some games are fixed -- concluded a rebound, with the finals up 64% from last year.

Of course, the week still had its share of what viewers usually associate with summer repeats and reality. But at least one show had a bit of the athleticism of the hardwood and the soft greens, as Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" two-stepped its way into sixth and seventh place, with Wednesday's episode delivering a 3.3/10 and Thursday's "fast affiliate" rating and share reaching 3.0/9.

Hide the knives
Other reality shows had some of the pressure, but none of the grace, that sports reality often reveals. Chef Gordon Ramsay of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen" (third, 4.0/11) is the restaurant equivalent of every raving college basketball coach. And NBC's "America's Got Talent" (fourth, 3.7/10) and ABC's "The Bachelorette" (10th, 2.5/7) evoke more memories of tryouts than great games.

As for the usual version of reruns, two that are themselves "gamers" repeated their appearance in last week's top 10: Fox's "House" (eighth with a 2.8/8) and the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men" (2.7/8, which was good for ninth).

Now that the U.S. Open and the NBA Finals are over, it's back to prime time's summertime versions of reality and repeats, at least until the All-Star Game and the Summer Olympics.

For those viewers still turning to broadcast TV, this might make for some long nights -- including tonight, as, fittingly, summer officially begins at 7:59 p.m. ET, right before prime time.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Friday: With Friday's prime-time ratings about as high as daytime's, it's fitting that the Daytime Emmy Awards ceremony run on ABC.
Saturday and Sunday: It's hard -- if not impossible -- to get lightning to strike in the same place twice. So it's unlikely that NBC's prime-time coverage of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastic Trials will be as riveting as last weekend's U.S. Open on NBC, but it will be a good preview of the best reality show of the season, the Summer Olympics, which start Aug. 8.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
A lot of kids will be watching "Camp Rock," the Disney Channel's attempt to reignite the passion of last year's "High School Musical 2," which set ratings records. A lot of adults -- at least in the media business -- will be watching, too, at least to see if Friday's premiere on the Disney Channel performs better than Saturday's encore on ABC.

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NOTE: A share is a percentage of TV households that have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all TV households, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.
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