The Sunshine Scenario: Big Network Hits Still Sizzling

Not all is doom and gloom in the world of network TV this summer.   Last week, The Hollywood Reporter asked why everything was tanking on TV this summer, calling it the "Summer of Fail." And over the past few days, TheWrap has been looking at some pretty scary doomsday scenarios for the network model. […]

Last Updated: August 18, 2009 @ 3:01 PM

Not all is doom and gloom in the world of network TV this summer.

 

Last week, The Hollywood Reporter asked why everything was tanking on TV this summer, calling it the "Summer of Fail." And over the past few days, TheWrap has been looking at some pretty scary doomsday scenarios for the network model.

 

And yet, guess what? Turns out there are some significant bright spots for the networks this summer.

 

Big tentpole reality hits that have done well for years are still doing well this summer. Indeed, in some cases, the shows are actually adding viewers.

 

Growth! Actual ratings growth! It can still happen in America, circa 2009.

 

Among the winners:

 

–CBS’s "Big Brother." Now it its eleventh cycle, the thrice-weekly reality soap opera is averaging 6.79 million viewers this summer, up 4 percent from last season. The numbers look even better when you look at the show’s individual nights.

 

Sunday’s edition of "Brother" had added 9 percent more overall viewers and is up 4 percent in adults 18-49. Thursday’s eviction segment has gained 6 percent in viewers and is also up 4 percent in the key demo. And while the Tuesday edition is pretty much flat, a big plot twist on tonight’s show could send that night into growth territory as well.

 

-ABC’s "The Bachelorette" franchise continues its return trip from the dead. It was up 7 percent this summer in adults 18-49.

 

-NBC’s "America’s Got Talent" remains a mighty force for the Peacock, with its Tuesday show adding three percent to its demo tally vs. a very successful summer 2008 run. And this year, there’s no Olympics halo (or fresh Hoff scandal) helping "Talent."

 

–The Thursday night results edition of Fox’s "So You Think You Can Dance" added 3 percent in the demo this summer. The hot tamale train remains on track (as does my need to use a hot tamale cliche everytime I write about this show).

 

Meanwhile, there’s no denying that the ratings for new network reality shows haven’t exactly been eye-popping. But relative to how everything else is doing on TV this summer, the freshman class of 2009 isn’t completely undistinguished.

 

This week, for example, three new shows– ABC’s "Shark Tank" and "Dating in the Dark," along with Fox’s "More to Love"– all ended up in Nielsen’s top 20 shows for the week among adults 18-49.

 

The news is also pretty darn good on the cable side of the spectrum, where original series are taking root.

HBO’s "True Blood" just set another record this weekend, as did Lifetime’s gonna-be-renewed-for-season-two-any-second-now "Drop Dead Diva." And AMC’s "Mad Men" may finally be breaking through with mainstream audiences after a two-year affair with the media elite.

 

In fairness, the overall trend for the broadcast networks this summer isn’t stellar.

 

CBS (while up 3 percent in overall viewers, the only net in the plus category) is still down six percent in adults 18-49, ABC is off 12 percent and Fox has declined by 14 percent. NBC, thanks to disadvantageous Olympics comparisons, has plunged 43 percent (but is actually in second place overall this summer).

 

But the fact that networks can still add new viewers to well-established franchises, while drawing decent audiences for some newcomers, indicates there’s still some reason to hope this summer.