History’s record-setting miniseries Hatfields & McCoys certainly kicked off what looks to be a hot ratings summer for cable.
The three-part series starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton blew away all estimated projections to become the most-watched miniseries in cable history, averaging a whopping 13.8 million viewers on Memorial Day and the two days after.
That bodes well for the rest of the summer for cable, which is lining up such shows as the highly anticipated premiere of TNT’s Dallas revival and the return of perennial summer hits such as Burn Notice (USA Network), Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family), Rizzoli & Isles (TNT) and Army Wives (Lifetime). The summer will also feature the finale of one of cable’s most popular and highly rated series, The Closer.
With its summer programming slate, ad-backed cable will look to continue increasing its audience dominance over the broadcast networks. Cable has averaged a 70% or more share of household live-plus-seven viewing during four of the last five summers, compared to a household share of less than 30% for the Big Four broadcast networks.
The one year those results were altered was in 2008, when broadcasters — on the strength of NBC’s 2008 Olympics coverage from Beijing — drew a 31% share while pulling cable’s share down to 69%. Cable faces with the same challenge this summer with NBC’s July 27-Aug. 12 coverage of the 2012 Olympics from London.
The Peacock Network will broadcast 272 hours of coverage from London over 17 days beginning in July, nearly 50 hours more than NBC’s 225 hours of coverage during the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.
And with another 5,300 hours of Olympics coverage via NBC-owned cable channels, as well as online and mobile streams, the games will pose a threat to cable’s recent gold-standard household share.
Undaunted, cable-network executives said they will put their best foot forward and run their top scripted and reality series, specials and original movies up against the Olympics.
All in all, it’s shaping up to be a great summer for viewers to stay indoors, in front of their big-screen TVs.