For Broadcast TV Networks, Summer Break Begins Now

Rash Report: NBC's 'America's Got Talent' Wins an Easy-Viewing Night

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- School may have ended around Memorial Day, and the summer solstice was on June 21. But this week appears to be the official start of the season, with workers scrambling to free themselves from bosses and BlackBerrys in order to enjoy Independence Day.

'America's Got Talent'
'America's Got Talent' Credit: NBC
Network TV has seemed to pick up the cultural cue, at least by looking at last night's schedule, which would have made potatoes as equally comfortable in hammocks as couches. In other words, summertime, when the viewing is easy.

Comfortable and cheesy, considering the cluster of reality shows, including "America's Got Talent," which won the ratings race with a 3.7/11 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, leading NBC to an overall win with a 2.6/8 (based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data delayed until tomorrow. Please see attached chart for individual program and network ratings).

"Talent" topped last week's telecast by 16%, with NBC claiming it was the highest-rated non-sports summer telecast so far this year. Conversely, ABC lost 13% for "The Superstars" (1.3/4) from last week's prime-time premiere.

And it wasn't just reality that was the small screen's equivalent to silly summer cinema on the big screen. Newsmagazines looked decidedly tabloid, with CBS's "48 Hours: Mystery" examining the death of Michael Jackson. Still, the 2.0/6 not only beat out a repeat of NBC's "Law and Order: SVU" (1.8/6), but ABC's "Primetime: Family Secrets" (0.9/3).

Ironically, one of the lower-rated entries was an ode to the endless summer mentality of Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon), whose sunny disposition shines brighter than her ditzy nature. But "Legally Blonde" only delivered a 1.0/3, as the Elle Woodses of the world were out having the fun the networks were trying to project back to them on screen.

Rash chart June 30, 2009Click for PDF
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

Wednesday: Given The Rash Report's Minneapolis byline, it couldn't go by without pointing out a new episode of PBS's "American Masters" that profiles Garrison Keillor. Like the kids of Keillor's mythical Lake Woebegone, it promises to be above average.
Thursday: Before honoring America on Friday, spend Thursday honoring England -- or at least the All England Lawn Tennis Championships (otherwise known as Wimbledon) on ESPN.

On a night of mostly reruns, a repeat of reality dominating ratings, as Fox runs "So You Think You Can Dance." NBC has another episode of "America's Got Talent," and ABC counters with "Wipeout" and "I Survived a Japanese Game Show."

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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

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