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Cable Ratings Guide: Early Fall 2012 Wrap-Up

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.

To make the transition from summer to fall, I'm doing another two-parter, this time dividing the posts by "summer" and "fall." In yesterday's first part, I recapped the end of summer seasons that had already started airing in the last edition two months ago, some of which just ended in the last couple weeks. In this second part, I'll start from scratch with a look at all the fall seasons that have premiered since we last spoke.

Switched at Birth (ABC Family): The whole fall run of Switched at Birth has come and gone since the last time I did one of these, premiering on September 3 and ending last week. The premiere had a solid 0.9 demo, but the show then settled down in the 0.6 to 0.7 vicinity once all the broadcast competition came back before perking back up to 0.75 for the finale. The run as a whole averaged a 0.70 demo, which was down by 9% from the show's last run in winter 2012. That made it stronger than pretty much all the other ABC Family originals not named Pretty Little Liars.

The Walking Dead (AMC): What a crazy ride it has been for The Walking Dead. I thought it was nuts back when it premiered with a 2.7 demo back on Halloween night in 2010, and in that first season it really became the first drama that all the broadcast networks would be happy to have. Since then, it's broken through many other ceilings for cable drama. And fall 2012, it appears, is the season in which The Walking Dead becomes bigger in the 18-49 demo than any entertainment program on the broadcast networks. It premiered to a whooping 5.77 demo on October 14, larger than any episode of entertainment programming on the networks this season, and then dropped to a still amazing 5.13 in week two. The 5.45 average is up by 46% on the first two of last fall and by 40% on the first two of last spring.

Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): While Tosh.0 remains a solid and probably pretty inexpensive option for Comedy Central, it's definitely lost a lot of steam in the last year. Its 1.25 demo average through five eps this fall is down by 30% on the first five of fall 2011.

Brickleberry (Comedy Central): It's funny that Comedy Central is airing its new animated show Brickleberry after a reality show (Tosh.0) rather than after the animated show they already have on the schedule, but it's probably because Brickleberry is another Daniel Tosh production. The show premiered with just under a 1.0 demo but has settled down at a 0.84 average, meaning it's holding onto about two-thirds of its lead-in from Tosh.0. No word on a renewal yet.

South Park (Comedy Central): Long-running animated tentpole South Park is another sharply declining piece of the Comedy Central puzzle. It's averaged just a 1.11 demo through five episodes, which is down a whooping 29% year-to-year. The silver lining is that it has perked up a bit since a slow start; it only had a 1.04 and a 1.00 the first couple of weeks.

Monday Night Football (ESPN): Though it's getting a serious challenge from The Walking Dead this fall, ESPN's Monday Night Football remains the top show on cable and a serious part of the competitive picture for the broadcasters on Monday night. Through eight weeks it's averaging a 5.60 demo, peaking at a 6.8 for Bears/Cowboys on October 1. It's dropped for three straight weeks since then, including just a 4.5 last week. The average so far is up 2% year-to-year.

Sons of Anarchy: FX's Sons of Anarchy has become another of the serialized dramas on cable to keep picking up steam. It premiered on September 11 with a series high 2.8 demo. And like previous Sons seasons, it settled down at about a half point below that. Through seven episodes, it's now averaging a 2.31 demo, which is up by 15% from last year.

American Horror Story: Speaking of hot serialized cable dramas... there's American Horror Story, which also premiered at a series high level (2.2) on October 17 and then dropped to a still very solid 1.7 in week two. Through two weeks, it's up by 31% from season one.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: But while FX's dramas are hot, its comedies are decidedly not. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia has had to duel with the NFL, the World Series and a debate, and it has not gone well at all. It premiered at just a 0.6 on October 11, down by more than 50% from last year! It's actually picked up a bit since then, to a 0.8 and then a 0.7, but it's still down by a ghastly 45% year-to-year through three episodes.

The League: The League hasn't looked nearly as bad as Sunny on a percentage basis, so I suppose it's something of a silver lining that this show is holding onto the Sunny lead-in a lot better. But it's still down by 23% from the first three of 2011 and averaging just a 0.56 demo through three episodes. And unlike Sunny, it hasn't had a positive post-premiere trend, hitting a low 0.49 last week.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO): One of the few serialized dramas on cable that's heading in the negative direction is HBO's Boardwalk Empire, down another 17% through six episodes this season. It premiered to nearly a 1.2 demo but has significantly dropped from there and is now averaging a 0.93 demo.

Jersey Shore (MTV): When you're a phenomenon on the rise, the ratings increases can seem almost endless. But when you're over as a phenomenon, you're really over. And Jersey Shore is falling extremely hard. It returned to just a 2.5 demo on October 4, which was below anything the show did in its last run in early 2012. But that was just the beginning, as it's now dropped well beneath 2.0 for each of the last three weeks and is averaging just a 1.81 demo. That's down by fifty-seven percent from the year-ago summer 2011 season and by more than half from the first four of the early 2012 campaign! MTV announced the show's end shortly before this season premiered and was apparently in the right to do so. While a 1.81 is still great, there's nowhere to go but down in additional seasons, and the once-massive ratings probably drastically drove up the costs of the series.

Thursday Night Football (NFL Network): In the last few seasons, the NFL Network's special Thursday NFL game was just a seven-week proposition in the late fall. This year, it has a longer run (13 weeks) and became part of the Thursday landscape much earlier. It's also been a stronger property. Its 2.90 average through seven games is up by 17% on the seven-game run last season.

Dexter (Showtime): Did I mention that serialized dramas on cable are doing well? The veteran Showtime staple Dexter premiered at a series high 1.3 demo and has settled north of a 1.0 in subsequent weeks, adding up to a 1.13 average through four episodes. That's an impressive 25% better than last year's first four.

Homeland (Showtime): But it's the Dexter lead-out that's really had a game-changer of a season to date. Homeland had a quiet opening few weeks last season, and this year's Emmy win has created a huge surge relative to those results. The show premiered at a 0.75 on September 30, which was (narrowly) a new series high, and it's since hit series highs in two of three subsequent weeks (including a 0.79 on October 21). The 0.73 average through four weeks is up by 82% year-to-year.

WWE Smackdown! (Syfy): The arrival of broadcast competition seemed to drop Smackdown's ratings in the opening weeks of the season, but it perked back up last week. It averaged a 0.73 demo in the opening four weeks of the 2012-13 season, down a bit from the 0.8ish average at the end of the summer.

Haven (Syfy): The third season of Syfy's Haven isn't doing all that much on Friday. Its 0.45 demo average is down by 14% from the first five of last year, only barely better than what the surely less expensive Lost Girl did this summer (0.42), and about on par with Alphas ratings in the summer (0.47). It looks like Haven and Alphas will both be sweating it out till decision time.

WWE Raw (USA): The WWE Raw numbers are a bit different because of the additional (and slightly lower-rated) third hour at 8:00. Raw's averaging a 1.37 demo this fall to date, but that's more like a 1.39 when just including 9:00 and 10:00. That 1.39 number would be down by 18% vs. the first five weeks of last season.

Covert Affairs (USA): I mentioned the rough summer for Covert Affairs yesterday, but the good news is that the short hiatus leading into the fall season seems to have kept most of the audience on board. It's averaging a 0.82 demo in the first couple episodes of the fall, which is down just 9% from the first two episodes of the November 2011 run.


For more, check out the previous cable guides here at SpoilerTV:
August part 1 | August part 2

September/October | November | December | January | February | March | April | May | June part 1 | June part 2 | July part 1 | July part 2

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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