'So You Think You Can Dance' Onto the Fall Schedule?

Rash Report: Last 'Dance' Holds Last Year's Ratings

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- With reality TV becoming the dominant genre during the summer, every network hopes it hits upon a formula that can work in the fall or spring. CBS's "Survivor," for instance, thrived during summer 2000 and later became a cornerstone of CBS's resurgence. ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" wasn't as big a summer smash, but its sashay into the regular season has helped the network ever since.

'So You Think You Can Dance'
'So You Think You Can Dance' Credit: Fox
Then there was Fox's "American Idol," the summer series that became the decade's defining program after its debut in 2001. Indeed, months after its season finale and months before its debut next season, "Idol" made front-page news this week when Paula Abdul tweeted her departure from the show.

This fall, Fox will trot "So You Think You Can Dance" onto the schedule, no doubt in an effort to lower costs compared with a scripted series, as well as keep the time slot warm before "Idol" gives the network a January jolt.

Just don't expect "Dance" to be the next "Idol." Indeed, despite stabilizing this summer to nearly match last year's Wednesday and Thursday averages in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, "So You Think You Can Dance" is facing a slow, albeit controlled erosion in the demographic. Going into last night's finale, the Thursday results show was averaging a 3.0/9 rating and share, which was 97% of last year's average. But compared with season three, in 2007, and season two, in 2006, it indexed an 81 and 83, respectively. And this year's average was only 70% of the first "Dance" in 2005.

"Dance" didn't go to a two-episode-a-week format until its second season. Going into this week, the Wednesday performance show was averaging a 3.0/10, which was 9% lower than last year, 14% lower than season three and 23% lower than season two.

As for the finale, Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings indicate "Dance" walked all over the competition with a 3.4/11, which was the same share as and a tenth of a ratings point ahead of last summer's last "Dance" (final live-plus-same-day data released this afternoon may alter this slightly).

Comparatively, most of the rest of the competition were wallflowers, particularly the networks running reruns, namely the CW (fifth place, .5/2), ABC (fourth place, .7/2) and NBC (third with a 1.1/3). Even CBS, which ran an original "Big Brother" (2.3/8), couldn't crack a two for the night, ending up second overall with a 1.8/6.

Rash grids

See how all the shows did in the ratings.

To be sure, "Dance" has lost a step or two during its run. But so have most other shows, including "Idol" itself. And by today's standards, delivering a first-place 3.4/11 on a Thursday night in August is an accomplishment. But come fall, "So You Think You Can Dance" will need to have its dancing shoes on, as original episodes on rival networks will have a few moves of their own.

Friday: ABC's "Surviving Suburbia" won't survive past this summer, so if you're one of the few fans remaining, the series finale runs Friday ...
Saturday: ... as does the series finale for "Dirty Sexy Money," ABC's moneyed Manhattan drama that looks so dated during the Great Recession.
Sunday: Conversely, it's the season opener for the NFL, as the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans meet in the Hall of Fame Game on NBC's "Sunday Night Football."

A brief hiatus for the Rash Report, which will return Monday, Aug. 17.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population 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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