Once upon a time, the summer was cable’s TV playground, with networks able to launch and build audiences for marquee scripted series without fear of competition from the broadcast networks, which traditionally offered reruns and throwaway reality programming.
This year, though, the broadcasters — as well as other content providers — are bringing their own balls and sticks to the park in the form of new, scripted series they hope will turn some of the summer TV watercooler talk back their way. And they’re starting this month, before cable programmers roll out their big summer fare.
Fox got the ball rolling on new original series May 5 with the relaunch of Jack Bauer and 24. After a four-year layoff, the 12-episode series drew an impressive 8 million viewers for its debut. Fox is also gearing up to launch several other new scripted dramas in May, including action dramas Riot and Gang Related.
NBC on May 11 debuted a reboot of the 1970s horror flick Rosemary’s Baby to rival Showtime’s premiere of horror/ drama series Penny Dreadful, and will launch The Night Shift, a new medical drama series, on May 27. ABC will return its 2013 summer hit Motive for a second season on May 21.
The networks will remain aggressive during the hot summer months by launching new shows like NBC’s action comedy Taxi Brooklyn, as well as returning shows such as CBS’s Under the Dome, even as cable debuts an avalanche of new and returning scripted and reality shows.
Even the OTT services are looking to get some summer ratings sun this year. Netflix in June will launch the second season of its Golden Globe-nominated dramedy Orange Is the New Black, while Hulu will return the all Latino-cast for its original series East Los High in July.
Cable and its broad lineup of original programming will inevitably dominate the overall ratings share numbers come Labor Day, but it may feel a little more heat as competitors look to add some sizzle to TV this summer.