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Dramas wilt in summer heat as reality fare, game shows set ratings pace

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Dramas wilt in summer heat as reality fare, game shows set ratings pace

Althoughsome would argue that the best summer drama linear TV networks have to offerjust premiered from Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena, it has been a largelydisappointing season for the TV drama genre.

Inyears past, cable typically scored with new dramas during the warm weathermonths as competition lessened while broadcasters took a programming respite.The 2013 debut of CBS(US)'s "Under the Dome," which morphed from an eventseries into a three-season summer run, changed that dynamic, enticing otherbroadcast networks to re-enter the dramatic summer fray.

Yetthe so-called Golden Age of TV has been anything but gilded for new andreturning linear network dramas in summer 2016, with broadcast and cable facingpressure from the availability of more originals from streamingservices like NetflixInc.

"Nowthere is so much original programming with the broadcasters and streamingservices airing dramas in the summer, nothing new has really broken throughthis year," said Marc Berman, TV analyst at programminginsider.com.

AlthoughBerman said the third season of NBC (US)'s medical drama, "The Night Shift,"is garnering some appeal, the sophomore season of crime drama"Aquarius" has not. Nor has the second season of CBS'"Zoo," or the network's new entries, "American Gothic," andsci-fi, dramedy "BrainDead." FOX (US)'s "Wayward Pines" may have becomemore interesting this season, but viewers are remaining outside its walls.

"Newdramas are becoming more commonplace, and the broadcast networks are notfinding the same appeal this summer with serialized programming," saidBill Carroll, senior vice president and director of content strategy at KatzTelevision Group.

Forthe most part, it's been a tepid season for cable as well — at least whengauged on a live plus same-day basis.  

's "Greenleaf," featuring the service's CEO in aguest role during its June 21 premiere, propelled the church family drama tobecome the network's topdebut with 3.04 million viewers on a live plus same-day basis.  

ButBerman called TNT's "Animal Kingdom" the most disappointing ofcable's drama rookie class, given that it received lots of promotion. Still,when its delayed watching was combined with viewing via video-on-demand,digital and mobile outlets, "Animal Kingdom" averaged 6.7 millionviewers across all TNT platforms when it earned a second-seasonrenewal earlier this month.

Meanwhile,TNT's veteran series, "Major Crimes" and "Rizzoli &Isles," which is now in its seventh and final season, are still picking upsignificant numbers of viewers, particularly on live plus seven basis. Forinstance, the June 27 premiere of "Rizzoli & Isles" averaged 4.36million watchers, with the total ticking up 59% to 6.94 million when adding theextra time.

SNL Image
'American Ninja Warrior' is scoring with the ratings in summer 2016.
Source: NBC

Otherseries like Freeform's "Pretty Little Liars" have also seen sizable audiencegains over the longer span. The June 21 episode garnered 1.43 million viewerson a live plus same-day basis, but the audience grew 74% to 2.48 million overthe longer span.

Ifdramas have drooped, reality and competition fare have played warmer.

"Itappears that 'America's Got Talent,' 'The Bachelorette,' 'American NinjaWarrior' and 'Big Brother' are continuing to perform well," said Carroll.

Bermanwas more impressed by ABC's "Sunday Fun & Games" block,comprising the second season of Steve Harvey-hosted "Celebrity FamilyFeud," followed by "The $100,000 Pyramid" and "MatchGame," led by Michael Strahan and Alec Baldwin, respectively.

"ABChad a very smart idea: Create a theme night with celebrity hosts," hesaid. "These shows are not going to produce a 3.0 among adults 18 to 49 or10 million viewers, but they are delivering very good results for summer."

Notingthat with TV, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, Berman predicted"there will be a rush to more game shows next summer. Did someone say,'Hollywood Squares?'"