Promising Start for ABC's 'Sunday Fun & Games' Block

On a Busy Summer Night, Nostalgia Wins the Broadcast Battle

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Alec Baldwin hosts 'Match Game' on ABC.
Alec Baldwin hosts 'Match Game' on ABC. Credit: Heidi Gutman/ABC

ABC's retro game-show block bowed in a flash of kitschy, burnt sienna glory, putting up strong summertime numbers on yet another overstuffed Sunday evening.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the new "Sunday Fun & Games" block more than held its own against the broadcast and cable competition, even as the anchor show, last year's surprise hit "Celebrity Family Feud," took one on the chin in its return. All told, the three-hour nostalgia trip, which consisted of "CFF," "The $100,000 Pyramid" and a meticulously reconstructed "Match Game," averaged 7.57 million viewers and a 1.6 in the adults 18-to-49 demo, easily outstripping the rest of the network field.

While the heavily promoted game-show package performed well in a night that also featured the season six finale of HBO's "Game of Thrones" and "The 2016 BET Awards," the final numbers for the "CFF" premiere were rather lower than one might have expected. MC'd by the ubiquitous Steve Harvey, "CFF" averaged 7.98 million viewers and a 1.6 rating among adults 18-to-49, marking a steep 33% decline compared with the June 21, 2015, series premiere, which drew a 2.4 in the demo.

That 1.6 rating ties a series low for "CFF," which it set during last year's Independence Day Weekend. That said, ABC's returning champ had its work cut out for it, going head-to-head with CBS's first Sunday night installment of "Big Brother" and the aforementioned "BET Awards." For its part, "Big Brother" is in a bit of a slump, drawing 5.45 million viewers and a 1.6 in the 18-to-49 demo, down from its year-ago 5.56 million viewers and 1.8 rating. Through the first three episodes of this season, CBS's long-running summer franchise is down 8% in total viewers and off 15% in the demo.

Featuring an opening number by Beyoncé and an all-star tribute to Prince, BET's annual awards gala delivered 7.86 million viewers as part of its 12-network simulcast. The flagship net alone averaged 4.5 million viewers and a 2.0 in the demo, while Nick-at-Nite, Comedy Central, VH1, MTV and other corporate sibs helped raise the final 18-to-49 tally to a 3.4.

ABC's deliveries picked up in the 9 p.m. hour, as the debut of "$100,000 Pyramid" won the block with an average draw of 8.09 million viewers and a 1.7 rating, which works out to around 2.16 million adults 18-to-49. At 10 p.m., the "Match Game" reboot dipped to 6.64 million viewers and a 1.5 in the demo, besting NBC's coverage of the 2016 P&G Gymnastics Championships (1.3). Alec Baldwin and the rest of the "Match Game" crew overlapped with 15 minutes of the supersized "Game of Thrones Finale" -- the chaotic, cannibalistic episode delivered a record 8.89 million viewers and a 4.4 in the demo -- and while the Venn Diagram of game-show nerds and George R. R. Martin enthusiasts probably looks like a deconstructed Oreo, the big doings in Westeros arguably may have taken a bite out of the reboot's ratings.

On the whole, as befits a block that revives a pair of formats ("Match Game," "Feud") first developed by Goodson-Todman Productions back in the '60s and '70s, the "Fun & Games" block skewed rather old, with nearly three-quarters (73%) of the overall deliveries falling outside the 18-to-49 demo.

Altogether, ABC booked approximately $6.69 million in ad revenue during the three-hour block, according to estimates. Among the more visible sponsors were Walmart, Blue Bunny Ice Cream, McDonald's, Ford and Toyota. Among the movie studios that bought time in the "Fun & Games" premiere were Columbia Pictures ("Ghostbusters"), Universal Pictures ("The Secret Life of Pets") and Paramount Pictures ("Star Trek Beyond").

Ratings for the "Fun & Games" block are sure to drop in their second week, as the three shows will air on July 3, when HUT levels (industry argot for "Homes Using Television") are at their annual low ebb. If the early sampling is any indication, week three should see a return to form for ABC's new showcase.

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