TNT’s Hits Close Strong Summer Season

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Some of cable’s top original
series went out with Nielsen
bangs last week, with a trio of
shows from the Time Warner
Inc. camp, in particular, capping
strong seasons.

TNT’s Monday night one-two
punch of series veteran The Closer
and rookie Rizzoli & Isles closed
their summer runs with 7.2 million
and 6.6 million viewers on
a live-plus-same-day basis, respectively,
on Sept. 13, according
to Nielsen data.

According to live-plus-seven
data through Aug. 23, the first
season of Rizzoli & Isles averaged
8.7 million viewers and 6.4
million households, while The
Closer
, in its sixth campaign, produced
its best numbers ever, with
8.4 million viewers and 6.2 million
households, up 3% from last
summer.

HISTORIC HIGHS
That makes the pair the top
entertainment shows in
ad-supported cable history
among viewers and households,
according to TNT officials.

The Closer, starring Kyra
Sedgwick, the Emmy winner
for outstanding actress in a
drama, still leads the cable
pack in premiere viewers.
The Closer will return in December
to conclude its sixth season,
while the Monday night
mates will air new campaigns
next summer.

HBO’s True Blood put its fangs
down on some 5.38 million viewers
during the premiere airing of
its third-season finale on Sept. 12
at 9 p.m., up 5% from its sophomore
season-concluder. The episode,
“Evil Is Going On,” trailed
only its penultimate predecessor
on Aug. 29, which garnered 5.44
million watchers, as the most in
the vampire series’ history.

Tagging on another 1.1 million
for the encore run, “Evil is Going
On” captured some 6.4 million
viewers on Sept. 12, a total that
might have been even higher save
for competition from MTV’s Video
Music Awards
and the record-setting
debut of NBC’s Sunday Night
Football
. NBC averaged 25.3 million
for Washington’s 13-10 victory
over Dallas, which now stands
as the most-watched NFL primetime
opener since 1996 and the
Peacock’s best-ever performance
with the pro football league on a
Sunday night.

For the season to date, True
Blood
averaged a series’ high
gross audience — including linear
plays, DVR and HBO On Demand
— of 12.7 million viewers,
sans additional contributions
from its finale. As the tallying for
the finale continued, the Anna
Paquin-starrer already ranked
as the second most-viewed series
in the premium channel’s history
behind The Sopranos.

USA Network’s Covert Affairs
also concluded its rookie season
last week, with a pair of episodes
debuting on Sept. 14.

The first, at 9 p.m. — the time
slot that had been occupied this
summer by White Collar — averaged
4.6 million viewers, including
1.7 million of the Madison
Avenue-coveted persons
18-to-49 set. The season finale, titled “When the Levee
Breaks,” earned an audience
of 5.2 million, matching its
rookie run’s average in total
audience, which was second
only to Rizzoli & Isles among
cable newcomers thus far in
2010, according to Nielsen.

“Levee” broke before 2.1
million persons 18 to 49.
Over its 11 episodes, Covert Affairs,
starring Piper Pirabo as a
new CIA operative, averaged 2.07
million 18-to-49 viewers, the best
in cable, according to USA officials.

As for the aforementioned
VMAs, it ranked as the third mostwatched
show in MTV history
with 11.4 million viewers, a 28%
jump over the 8.9 million for the
2009 version and the most since
the 2002 rendition’s 11.9 million,
according to Nielsen.

The Sept. 12 show from Los Angeles
— in which pop star Lady
Gaga won three “moon man” statuettes
during a ceremony hosted
by E!’s Chelsea Handler and featuring
musical performances by
Justin Beiber, Kanye West, Eminem,
Rihanna and Taylor Swift
— fashioned 7.9 million viewers
among the network’s broad
target demo of persons 12 to 34.
That was one-third more than last
year and matched the 2002 VMAs
mark as the most-watched ever
among the group.

READY FOR FOOTBALL

Meanwhile, ESPN kicked off the
fifth season of cable’s biggest
franchise, Monday Night Football,
to record numbers.

The Baltimore Ravens’ 10-9
road victory over the New York
Jets at the New Meadowlands Stadium
on Sept. 13 tackled a 10.9
cable rating, 10.85 million households
and 14.97 million viewers
on average, according to Nielsen,
the best of ESPN’s 10 MNF opening
night games thus far. The
Sept. 13 nightcap, the Kansas City
Chiefs’ 21-14 win over the San Diego
Chargers, scored an 8.8 rating
with an average of 8.8 million
households watching and 11.9
million viewers.

Moreover, Ravens-Jets marked
the second-largest audience on
cable in 2010, trailing only the
2009 MNF season finale, Chicago’s
overtime upset over Minnesota
on Dec. 28, 2009 (part of
Nielsen’s 2010), which drew a 12.0
cable rating, 11.9 million homes
and just over 17 million watchers;
the Chiefs-Chargers contest
was third.

The MNF games on Sept. 13
— the two highest-rated programs
of the night on any network
— combined for ESPN’s
highest-rated and most-viewed
season-opening doubleheader
since the format started in 2006.
The games averaged a 9.9 household
rating, 9.9 million households
and 13.6 million viewers,
a 3% increase from last year’s
combined 9.6. The Buffalo-New
England game registered a 10.3
rating, 10.2 million households
and 14 million viewers, while
San Diego-Oakland recorded an
8.9 rating, 8.8 million homes and
11.9 million watchers.

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