This story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
What carriage war? The network's ratings losses during its Time Warner Cable standoff have been minimal, and it's actually topping broadcast nets without those 3.2 million affected subscribers. CBS also boasts the summer's breakout hit in Under the Dome. Although dipping from its big debut, the drama still is averaging a 3.8 adults rating and 14.4 million viewers in Live+7. Other nets are rethinking next summer's plans.
Capitalizing on the draw of cable's top awards show (the June 30 BET Awards brought in 4.2 million adults 18-to-49), the young-skewing network followed up with scripted victories in the original movie Being Mary Jane and the midseason return of The Game -- one of the most consistent comedies on cable.
Jon Stewart's summer substitute weathered pressures of The Daily Show anchor chair like a champ, maintaining the same rating (0.97) with Comedy Central's coveted men 18-to-34 demo that Stewart had over the same period last summer, which benefited from an election boost.
As hard as it is to lob more accolades at the streamer, the Netflix effect was felt across platforms. Not only did it nab 14 Emmy nominations, Netflix brass say July's Orange Is the New Black is getting more views than House of Cards and Arrested Development. Its library of Breaking Bad also is being credited with AMC luring 5.9 million viewers to that series' return, up 50 percent.
They might be cheap, but they aren't moving the dial. Canadian imports Motive (ABC) and Crossing Lines (NBC) have performed dismally as broadcast nets made a valiant attempt to remove repeats from the summer schedule. The latter most recently bottomed out with a 0.5 rating in the demo -- basically half of The Mentalist repeat airing in the same hour.
Sure, there are exceptions -- History's The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man, whatever that is, is off to a strong start -- but by and large, the summer months have been inhospitable to cable's unscripted freshmen. TNT might have fared the worst in its second summer of trying to build a reality stable, with Ben Silverman and The Rock's The Hero pulling as few as 1 million viewers and competition 72 Hours banished to Fridays at 10 p.m. after never registering a pulse. (Veteran Duck Dynasty, by contrast, returned to A&E on Aug. 14 with a mind-boggling 11.8 million viewers and a 5.0 rating in adults 18-to-49.)
If flat is the new up, then applause is in order for Fox's MasterChef and CBS' Big Brother. Both summer reality series are steady with last year's averages. And while America's Got Talent, So You Think You Can Dance and The Bachelorette all suffered from a summer slump, none returned in as bad a shape as ABC's Wipeout. The obstacle-course competition lived up to its name, tumbling the most this year, down 33 percent to a 1.2 rating in adults 18-to-49.
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