Summer TV Programming Heavy on Daytime Fare

Rash Report: Game Shows, Morning-Talk-Show Hosts and Reality

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Here's this week's Rash Report, in which one brave media buyer, John Rash of Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, dives into a week's worth of broadcast-TV ratings in order to illuminate those that delivered, and those that didn't. Look for the Rash Report every Friday at Ad Age's MediaWorks.
Morning man Matt Lauer jumped into prime time for his 'Dateline' interview with Princes William and Harry.
Morning man Matt Lauer jumped into prime time for his 'Dateline' interview with Princes William and Harry. Credit: NBC

MINNEAPOLIS ( -- Yesterday's summer solstice featured the most amount of daytime all year. So, it seemed, did this week's prime time, as the week's top 10 shows in terms of ratings made the two dayparts nearly interchangeable.

For example, last Friday's two prime-time shows on CBS honored performers and programs seen during daytime -- the "Daytime Emmy Awards" (which had a 1.9/7 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, up 12% from last year's April airing) and the encore presentation of the final episode of "The Price is Right" with Bob Barker as host (2.1/9). Both had demo deliveries well above average for a summer weekend night, but neither could quite crack the top 10.

Extra competition in summer
Of those programs that did make the top 10, several were from the reality-TV genre, and many were evocative of game-show concepts that used to be watched in ice-cold air conditioning when the noonday sun was too hot for bare feet. But ever since ABC's "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" made millions of dollars with millions of viewers in the summer of 2000, summertime prime time has consisted of contests that aim to be episodic and addictive, which is strategic scheduling during a season when competition comes not just from other networks, but from backyard barbecues and the big screen.

And like those summer sequels at the cineplex, these programs are as carefree as a summer day, with most being the TV equivalent of running through the sprinkler -- an inexpensive but fun way to cool off after the regular season's often-draining dramas.

Accordingly, NBC's "America's Got Talent" (4.1/13) was the top-rated show this week, and the net's "Deal or no Deal" (3.1/10) took the sixth spot, joining two versions of Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" (third and fourth, respectively, with last night's 3.4/10 based on Nielsen's "Fast Affiliate Ratings" and Wednesday delivering a 3.3/11). Fox also had two other entries in the top 10: the hot summer series "Hell's Kitchen" (fifth with a 3.2/9) and last night's "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" (if the "Fast Affiliate Ratings" hold up, it will be seventh for the week with a 2.9/10).

Matt Lauer in prime time
Matt Lauer also helped blur the line between daytime and prime-time content. The NBC "Today Show" host jumped into prime time's "Dateline" to explore a typically daytime topic: Britain's royal family. Monday's interview with Princes William and Harry helped "Dateline" win the night's ratings crown, and the 4.0/11 also placed the show second for the week.

Movies -- traditionally a daytime pleasure for kids during the summer -- were highlighted in prime time this week in CBS's "AFI: 100 Years, 100 Films Tenth Anniversary Edition," which accompanied a revised list of the top 100 films of all time. But the celebration of cinema like Orson Welle's "Citizen Kane" -- released in 1941 but still No. 1 -- evidently wasn't in sync with summer, delivering a 1.9/6, down 15% from last year's "America's Most Inspiring Movies" version. It was left out of the top 10.

Reruns formerly made up the prime-time programming during the lazy days of summer, as the three networks used to be able to take the three months off in a pre-cable version of "gone fishin'." Now with so many off-network programs having made the leap from prime time to daytime repeats on cable and in syndication, there is more original programming during the summer months.

So, it's indicative of increased summer options on cable and more original programming by the broadcasters that just three repeats made the top 10, filling the bottom three slots. CBS' "CSI: Miami" (2.7/8) finished in a tie for ninth place with another CBS program, "Two and a Half Men." NBC's "Law and Order: SVU" finished eighth with a 2.9/9.

Sadly, starting today, the days get shorter. But the longer-term trend of daytime seeping into prime-time programming will most likely continue.

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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 a TV. Ad deals traditionally have been negotiated on the basis of live-viewing figures, though Nielsen Media Research and the broadcast networks release viewership statistics that include live-plus-same-day playback on digital video recorders. All the ratings listed here are live.

John Rash is senior VP-director of broadcast negotiations for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For daily rating updates, see
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