USA and TNT are both having nice summers. But where it matters most, USA is still ahead despite anything you may have read to the contrary.
TNT PR has been showing off their powers of "The Force" by playing Jedi mind tricks on the media: "these are not the numbers you're looking for," and at least to some degree it has worked! Impressive. Most impressive.
Indeed, TNT has the summer's two most-watched shows overall: Rizolli & Isles and The Closer.
But with advertising coveted adults 18-49, USA has three shows: Royal Pains, Burn Notice, and newcomer Covert Affairs that all come out ahead of Rizzoli & Isles and The Closer despite having fewer total viewers.
USA's dramas perform even better among adults 18-34 where its best performer in that group (Burn Notice) averages more than twice as many viewers 18-34 as TNT's best drama in that category (The Closer).
Below are the summer-to-date results through Thursday August 12. They use Nielsen's "Most Current" measurement which counts a week's worth of DVR viewing wherever available. That's everywhere but the last couple of weeks, so, for example, Dark Blue's numbers are all Live+Same Day DVR viewing.
It's sorted by adults 18-49, but you can still see Rizzoli & Isles is averaging over 8 million total viewers.
Summer-to-date results for TNT & USA Scripted Shows:
|Show||NET||Viewers 18-49 (000)||Viewers 18-34 (000)||Total Viewers (000)||# TC's|
|RIZZOLI & ISLES||TNT||2283||601||8057||5|
|IN PLAIN SIGHT||USA||1732||584||4930||5|
|LAW & ORDER: CI (ORIG)||USA||1302||438||3572||6|
# of TC's = the number of original regular time slot telecasts of each show between May 31-August 12, 2010.
Long, rambling disclaimer for the sensitive
It's a world of many constituencies. There are the fans who often want only the total number of viewers to matter. There are the networks who in many cases wish the fans would get their wish. Then there are the advertisers who lament that Nielsen doesn't slice the data exactly like they want it. But in the meanwhile, the advertisers grit their teeth and are still much more interested in general in viewers under 50 than viewers over 50.
I know that sets a lot of people off (and not just the people running CBS who have a lot of viewers over the age of 50). Nobody wants to feel they're irrelevant and some are especially sensitive to that and shake their fists in the air and proclaim "I have more more money than some punk 22 year old!" It's an unfortunate result, and while understandable it's a bit wrongheaded.
It's not that the viewers over 50 are irrelevant, it's just that they are far more available to advertisers because people over 50 watch a lot more TV on average. It is the relative scarcity of younger viewers, and not their age, that makes them so much more coveted by advertisers.
There are definitely reasonable arguments favoring change in the way that advertising is sold and the way that measurement is done. Someday, things probably will change. Until then, the reasonable thing for TV by the Numbers to do is focus on the way things actually work right now.