Viewers Opt for Golf and Basketball Over Theater

Rash Report: Live U.S. Open and NBA Finals Prevail

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- "The play's the thing," wrote Shakespeare. Play is the thing, said Nielsen households, as Sunday's tony Tony Awards ceremony lost to the gritty NBA Finals and U.S. Open.
U.S. Open Winner Tiger Woods.
U.S. Open Winner Tiger Woods. Credit: AP

All three were at least artistic winners, and showed how powerful programming is even in the dog days of summer reruns and reality TV. Tiger Woods led off the night, with a putt every bit as dramatic as the theatrics on Broadway, tying Rocco Mediate on the last hole of the U.S. Open, setting up today's playoff that will be split on ESPN and NBC.

Lovely sunset for NBC
Last night's prime-time portion -- made possible by the San Diego sunshine -- easily gave NBC the win from 7-9 p.m. ET with a 3.9/13 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, up 11% from the 3.5/14 prime-time overrun from last year. (All Sunday ratings reflected are Nielsen "fast affiliates." Final "live plus same day" numbers are available Tuesday.)

Normally, that would be an ideal lead-in to a Mike Myers "Saturday Night Live" (1.9/5) retrospective, as the millions of men watching on Father's Day may get a kick out of "Wayne's World" and the "Austin Powers" movies. But most of those men -- many of them dads controlling the remote on Father's Day -- just jumped over to the jump ball beginning Game Five of ABC's NBA Finals, which was the highest-rated program of the night, delivering a 5.5/15 from 9 to 11 p.m. ET. (This number will certainly go up once the final live-plus-same-day ratings are available tomorrow. But the numbers for "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "NBA Countdown" will go down, as the 3.2/11 and 4.0/12 don't reflect both shows running from 5 to 6 p.m. on the West Coast.) ABC began the night with a 2.5/9 for a repeat of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" to finish with an average of 4.3/13, which beat NBC's second-place 2.9/9.

Bringing the stage to the small screen is always a challenge, be it PBS's "Masterpiece Theatre" or CBS's "Tony Awards." And it didn't help that the athletic artists singing and dancing on the "Tony Awards" had to compete with Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant. This makes it all the more remarkable that the 1.1/3 only fell about 8% from last year, as perhaps the generational span of the hip-hop "In the Heights" and the revival of "South Pacific" -- two of the night's big winners -- helped hold the audience. (Of course, it may dip further with the final live-plus-same-day ratings, as the fast affiliates are more reflective of viewers in Manhattan than Manhattan, Kansas.) CBS finished fourth, overall, with a 1.1/3, after "60 Minutes" halved its normal audience by delivering a 1.2/5.

Can we play, too?
As for Fox and the CW on this night of crowning (or trying to crown) champions? Both barely got in the game, as "The Game" (.5/1) was the best the CW could muster during a night of repeats. Three shows delivered a .4/1 ("Everybody Hates Chris," "Aliens in America" and "Girlfriends"), and "One Tree Hill" registered a .2/1, as the network averaged an overall .4/1.

And while Fox finished third with a 1.6/5, the network was significantly less competitive than usual. This, however, may be due to some strategic scheduling, as programmers may have punted with reruns, realizing their Sunday-night animation generally delivers an audience more than 60% male. "Don't Forget the Lyrics" (1.0/4) led off into animated sitcoms "The Simpsons" (1.8/5), "King of the Hill" (1.7/5), "Family Guy" (2.3/6) and "American Dad" (2.1/6).

As for Shakespeare, he enjoyed a great show as much as anyone. Had he looked at the great TV on Father's Day, it may have reconfirmed that, indeed, "All the World's a Stage" -- or in this case, a stage, a basketball court or a putting green.

Monday: As one reality show blends into another this summer, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that there actually is real talent that emerges, such as on NBC's "Nashville Star."
Tuesday: Boston Celtics. Los Angeles Lakers. Game Six.

A dramatic drop-off in Monday male viewers after Sunday night's sports drama yields to the melodrama of ABC's "The Bachelor" as well as other reality and reruns of sitcoms and dramas.

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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
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