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February 2012 Cable Ratings Guide

I'm back with another monthly look at the cable TV landscape! As always, I'll note that I mostly traffic in adults 18-49 ratings below. (That's always what I mean by "demo.") However, these should be taken with some grain of salt. I use A18-49 ratings because of availability and because they're a reasonable way of making comparisons across networks, but be advised that it is not necessarily the be-all-end-all number it is on broadcast. Not all of these networks target that demographic specifically. In this edition, all these numbers are up to date through Thursday, March 1.

I'm covering 30 shows on 13 networks this time, but this is still far from a complete look at cable originals, so let me know if you have a favorite you'd like on this list. Here we go!

For more, check out the previous cable guides here at SpoilerTV:
September/October | November | December | January

Pretty Little Liars: After posting some great low-1 numbers in January, PLL basically settled at right below a 1.0 demo and just above 2 million viewers in February. Its 1.08 demo average through nine episodes this season is down 5% from the first nine of last winter.

The Lying Game: As Pretty Little Liars took a bit of a dip in February, so too did its lead-out The Lying Game. It's still doing better than in its low-rated summer run, but now only by a little bit. It's averaging a 0.60 demo through nine episodes, meaning it's still down by more than 40% from its PLL lead-in on average.

Switched at Birth: While Switched at Birth held up a little better than the Monday shows relative to its January numbers, and it's still a pretty successful show for ABC Family, it remains well behind the summer numbers (when it was regularly above a 1.0 demo). This winter run is averaging a 0.79 demo through nine episodes.

Jane By Design: ABC Family's newbie Jane By Design remains the weak link of their four winter dramas, averaging just a 0.49 demo through nine episodes and down by almost 40% from Switched at Birth. But it's still not a total bomb by ABC Family standards; it continues to do better than this timeslot's summer occupant, The Nine Lives of Chloe King. The network has ordered eight additional episodes, clearly less of a show of faith than the huge order Switched at Birth got a few months earlier, but it's still something.

The Walking Dead (AMC): I've said in previous editions that The Walking Dead is probably the first basic cable drama to put up 18-49 numbers that any broadcast network would be happy to have. And they've only gotten bigger in the back half of season two, which premiered to a ridiculous 4.2 demo and has remained in the upper 3's in each of the two weeks since, good for a 3.89 average overall. In two of its three February airings, it was actually the top 18-49 drama on TV, broadcast or cable. That came in the middle of a sweeps period when practically all the broadcast dramas are new. Plus, those two episodes that won the drama week went against the Grammys and the Oscars! After-show Talking Dead has averaged a 0.51 demo, a little weaker than its fall average.

Comic Book Men (AMC): But all is not well on AMC Sundays, as the network's new Dead lead-out Comic Book Men is doing pretty terribly. It premiered to a 1.0 demo on February 12, which already represented below 25% retention of the Walking Dead lead-in's demo, but it's since dropped huge in week two (to a 0.75) and then again by a bit in week three (to a 0.72). That adds up to a 0.84 average. At this point, its retention is below 20%, which is pretty rare to see. For comparison, Hell on Wheels' worst rating after Dead was a 1.2!

The Game (BET): The Game still does very good by cable standards and absolutely great by BET standards, but it's not really able to compete with the broadcasters in its Tuesday 10/9c timeslot the way it could last season. The second season of its BET run has basically settled in the low-1's, way down both from last season and even from early this season. The first eight episodes are averaging a 1.84 demo, down by 22% from the first eight of last season.

Let's Stay Together (BET): As was the case last month, Game companion Let's Stay Together has gone down from last season, but not to the extent its The Game lead-in has. Its 1.19 average through eight episodes is down just 12% from last season, and that means it's also holding its Game lead-in a lot better than last season (even though it's still down by about 35% on average).

Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): Like The Game, it looks like Comedy Central flagship Tosh.0 has dropped a bit behind the broadcast contenders on Tuesday at 10/9c, but it does seem to have settled at a higher level than The Game (it's more of a mid-1's show than a low-1's). Its average through five episodes this season is a 1.62 demo, down by 18% from the first five of last winter.

Key & Peele (Comedy Central): Since its decent premiere on January 31, Key & Peele has dropped to a little below a 1.0 demo, and its average through five episodes is a 1.01 demo. That's a big average drop from Tosh.0 (nearly 40%), but Comedy Central has put many things in the timeslot that have done even worse, so they're probably content. A second season renewal has already happened.

Justified: Though Justified was yet another show to drop a bit in February relative to January, it did ultimately emerge as the 18-49 victor of the three-pronged Tuesday drama battle with USA (White Collar) and TNT (Southland) over the last few weeks. Overall, season three is averaging a 0.90 demo, down by just 4% from the first seven episodes of last season. And with dramas like White Collar and Parenthood clearing out of the timeslot last week, let's see if this show can benefit.

Archer: Archer was one of the few shows on the upswing in February, building its demo average a bit when it has typically dropped at this point in previous seasons. Its 0.67 demo average through seven episodes is now up a whooping 24% from the first seven of last winter, and that gain is more like 40%+ when just comparing February episodes.

Unsupervised: Despite the favorable trend for Archer, its 10:30 lead-out Unsupervised has not really benefited. The show is now averaging just a 0.37 demo through seven episodes. That's an average drop from the Archer lead-in of about 45%, and those drops have been more like 50%+ in recent weeks. I'm guessing FX will try to find something better to pair with Archer when it returns for season four.

Luck (HBO): There's critical acclaim, and there's a second season renewal in the bag, but there just isn't good news to be found in Luck's ratings. Its first six episodes have averaged just a 0.24 demo, but the February episodes averaged less than 500,000 viewers and less than a 0.2 demo. Granted, those episodes have gone up against some of the biggest events on TV (the Super Bowl, the Grammys and the Oscars), but Showtime's lineup held up pretty well (at much higher levels) under the same circumstances. There just isn't a first-run audience here, and all we can do is look ahead to season two and see if a good showing in awards season can possibly help.

Teen Mom 2 (MTV): Unlike The Game and Tosh.0, fellow Tuesday contender Teen Mom has held up well enough that's been able to contend with the broadcasters in the 10:00 hour. It's averaged right around a 2.00 demo (whether it's just above or just below depends on whether you count all the finale specials in the average) and is down somewhere in the neighborhood of 5% year-to-year. That makes it still one of cable's strongest shows.

Jersey Shore (MTV): It's pretty much official now: the Jersey Shore phenomenon is on the downswing. The three most recent season five episodes all went below the 3.0 demo threshold, marking the first time since season two that the show's ever gone below that mark. And the 2.7 demo pulled last week is down nearly a third from this season's premiere back on January 5. Overall, the season has averaged a 3.33 demo and is down 22% from last winter's season, but both of those numbers are front-loaded and should continue to get worse unless the show can turn it around in March. Even at these depressed levels, though, it's still one of TV's biggest 10/9c shows.

Shameless (Showtime): Shameless continues to be one of the winter's best ratings stories, with its 0.70 demo average through seven episodes now up a huge 54% from season one's first seven. It's not often you can say a Showtime series is doing over three times as well as an HBO series in the same timeslot, but Shameless is pulling that off (relative to aforementioned HBO bomb Luck).

House of Lies (Showtime): While House of Lies continues to take big drops out of Shameless, its average held up in its second month on the air. It's still averaging a 0.45 demo through seven episodes.

Californication (Showtime): The rising tide of Showtime Sunday has also lifted Californication, which is holding most of its House of Lies lead-in and is now averaging a 0.39 demo, up by a whooping 51% from the first seven episodes of its winter 2011 run.

Being Human: The raw numbers for Being Human dropped a bit in February, but the show still held up much better than it did in February 2011, so its year-to-year trend is better. It's now up by 16% and averaging a 0.71 demo overall. And it got its no-brainer third-season renewal this month.

Lost Girl: Canadian import Lost Girl has been losing about a third of its Being Human lead-in in recent weeks, and it's now averaging a 0.45 demo through seven episodes. Syfy already has the rights to air season two, and considering its likely low cost, I'd guess these numbers are good enough for them to pick up the announced third season as well.

WWE Friday Night Smackdown!: This show keeps chugging along with the same mix of 0.8's, 0.9's and 1.0's it's been pulling since about October, and it remains bigger than any of its network's scripted shows. Its February average of 0.93 was a little bigger than the February 2011 average.

Merlin: It looked like Merlin might be poised for a huge season when it pulled some 0.6's in January, but since then it's steadied at right around a 0.5 demo. The first eight episodes of the season have averaged a 0.51 demo, which is still up a massive 35% from the first eight of last season.

Tyler Perry's House of Payne (TBS): House of Payne keeps posting pretty decent for Friday numbers. It averaged a 0.68 demo in the month of February, down just a bit from its January average.

Southland (TNT): Though Southland has usually been the third-place show in the three-way Tuesday cable drama battle, it's held up decently year-to-year, with its 0.64 average down just 6%. And it built to a 0.74 demo last week, narrowly beating White Collar (0.73) in 18-49 for the first time. And that was on White Collar's finale night!

Hot in Cleveland (TV Land): Hot in Cleveland limped through February, dropping below 1.5 million viewers and below a 0.3 demo in its last two episodes. The 0.35 demo average was down 30% from Hot in Cleveland's winter 2011 run. It's taken the last couple weeks off but will return to lead into season two of Happily Divorced this Wednesday.

WWE Raw: With most of USA's dramas on the decline of late, USA's wrestling franchise is now pretty decidedly its strongest original program in 18-49. It averaged a 1.72 demo in the month of February, down a bit from the 1.77 in January and down noticeably from the 1.97 average in February 2011.

White Collar: While White Collar had a decent first few weeks of the winter, it really tanked in February, posting just a 0.8 demo on February 7 and then a 0.7 in its last two episodes. Those results dropped the show behind Justified in the Tuesday drama race (and, on finale night, behind Southland) and were the three worst performances in series history. The show kinda shook off the "holds up well in the regular season" label as it dropped about 25% from its summer average. And the 0.91 average also dropped 26% from last winter's run. The good news is that this doesn't matter in the short term as a full fourth season renewal is already secure, but it may be something to keep an eye on next season.

Royal Pains: Much like White Collar, Royal Pains seemed to be building some momentum in late January only to see things fall apart in February. The show ended up averaging a 0.89 demo, down by 19% from last winter's run and down nearly 40% from the summer average!

Psych Psych is supposed to be, like White Collar, one of those shows that holds up well in the winter, but the 2.455 million viewers and 0.8 demo on premiere night did not exactly inspire confidence; the latter was a new series low and down a lot from the 3 million/1.0 demo of the fall premiere. It's just one data point, so I'll have more on Psych next time.

For more in-depth TV ratings coverage every day, check out my blog at SpottedRatings.com or follow me on Twitter: @spotupj.

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