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March 2013 Cable Ratings Guide, Part 1

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. For the regular readers, shows that just began a season in this edition are in blue.

All numbers are up to date through Thursday, March 28. With 40+ shows to cover this month, I'm splitting it up into two parts. The Lifetime, Showtime, Syfy, TBS, TNT and USA shows are now live on part two!

Bates Motel (A&E): A&E's latest scripted foray is a prequel of the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. It started its run on March 18 with a pretty solid 1.26 demo rating, then fully maintained that 1.26 in its second week. While it may have fallen below some expectations, keep in mind the other scripted successes on the network (The Glades and Longmire) never even broke a 1.0 last summer. So this looks pretty strong for now.

Duck Dynasty (A&E): The red-hot unscripted show of the moment is A&E's Duck Dynasty. After slowly building to a 2.0+ late last year, its finale shot all the way up to a 3.0. Then the 2013 premiere took another huge stride to 3.9! Since then, it's settled down a bit, hitting mid-3's for the last several week. It's averaging a 3.67 since the new year, which few shows broadcast or cable can top.

Switched at Birth : Following a rather slow start to the season (0.70 premiere on January 7, down 30% year-to-year), Switched at Birth picked up pretty nicely, hitting an 0.8 in four of its last seven winter episodes. It ended up with a 0.73, down just 6% from last year's winter run. And with Secret Life no longer part of the ABC Family roster after this spring, Switched at Birth will make its return to the summer months in 2013.

Bunheads: While Switched at Birth was picking up some steam in the back half of its winter run, Bunheads remained stuck in the low 0.4's. It ended the season with a very mediocre 0.45 average, 18% below its first run of episodes. So far, there's been no official word on the show's future.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Once the runaway top show on ABC Family, Secret Life's ratings are now a shadow of what they once were. The show returned on March 18 with just a 0.61 demo, down nearly half from the year-ago 1.06 premiere. It held up well in week two, dropping to 0.59.

Pretty Little Liars: ABC's new runaway top show finished off an extremely consistent and strong winter season with a 1.17 demo for its March 19 finale. That was right in line with the 1.17 average for the season. Overall, said 1.17 average was up by 10% year-to-year.

The Lying Game: But while Pretty Little Liars was continuing to surge, lead-out The Lying Game kept moving in the other direction. It averaged a 0.54 for the season, down 9% from last winter, and it got a mere 0.45 for its finale on March 12. Like Bunheads, it's now sitting in the clubhouse with no episodes left to air and its future to be determined.

The Walking Dead (AMC): The biggest story on cable TV, and probably on TV in general, has been the continued rise of The Walking Dead, which is now comfortably outrating all entertainment programming on broadcast TV. The show's 5.69 demo average this spring to date is up a whooping 46% from the spring 2012 run (and a little higher than the 5.32 average from the fall). Info about the finale should be available soon! And the move to 10:00 has hugely boosted the ratings of aftershow Talking Dead; its 2.01 average through seven eps is up nearly 150% over last spring (when it still aired at midnight).

The Game (BET): One of the few truly hit sitcoms on cable is a broadcast import, BET's The Game (though it's done much better on cable than on the CW). Its 1.24 demo return on March 26 was less than half of the huge 2.8 demo from last season's premiere. However, the 1.24 is basically where the show settled for the last three quarters of the previous season, if not a bit higher. So if the show can hold up in the coming weeks, the year-to-year declines won't end up being this drastic.

Let's Stay Together (BET): Like The Game, the show's decent-rated lead-out Let's Stay Together was down by more than half from last season's premiere with a 0.9 rating.

Tosh.0 (Comedy Central): Following its 1.5 premiere on February 5, Comedy Central's biggest show has settled in the 1.3 range and is averaging a 1.31 overall. It's now down 16% from last spring.

Workaholics (Comedy Central): Workaholics has taken a bit of a downturn in the last month or so, averaging about a 0.7 in its last four episodes. But the average for the season still ended up at 0.81, down just 9% from last season. By Comedy Central standards, pretty steady.

Justified: It looked like Justified had a potential real breakthrough when it premiered to a 1.3 demo on January 8, up 30%+ from last year's premiere. But it quickly returned to normal with a 0.9 in week two, and it's pretty much hung in the 0.9 area (with the occasional 0.8) since then. It's now averaging a 0.91 demo, still up a touch (3%) from the first twelve of last year.

The Americans: Since The Americans' solid 1.2 premiere on January 30, it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Starting in week three, it's alternated going up and down each week, and sometimes drastically. The 0.80 in week four made it look like the show had found an acceptable level, but then it went to 0.50 in week five and looked like a borderline-flop. It seems to have settled somewhat, and somewhere in the middle, at around an 0.6. But the inflation of the early weeks means it's still averaging a 0.75. It's been renewed for season two already, but it probably has little room to drop from its current 0.6 level next season.

Anger Management: The 90-episode order for Charlie Sheen's Anger Management probably isn't producing the ratings FX had hoped for. Its 0.57 average through ten episodes is down a whooping 53% from the ten eps that triggered the 90-ep pickup last summer, and lately it's been even lower than that... including some episodes in the 0.4 range.

Archer: The best story on FX right now is animated comedy Archer, which remains on the drastic upside year-to-year despite dropping off somewhat in the month of March. Its 0.92 average is up 38% from last season's average, and it's one of the youngest-skewing shows around.

Legit: FX's comedy Legit appeared to be pretty much dead on arrival with a 0.36 demo rating on January 17. Since then... it's basically held onto that rating if not improved a touch, and now it's averaging a 0.37. Honestly, that's still pretty terrible; it's just 40% of its Archer lead-in. But FX found a creative way to keep this show alive, renewing it and sending it off to new sister network FXX. It's hard to feel optimistic about a network move for a show that's already a weak performer, but at least it'll get one more run.

Girls (HBO): Season two of Girls mostly didn't live up to the ratings hype; it averaged a mere 0.38 demo, down by 17% from last season. But at least it wasn't soaking up a huge lead-in this season, and the buzz around the show was significant enough that HBO renewed it for season three.

Enlightened (HBO): Leading out of Girls was Enlightened, another acclaimed comedy. But in this case the ratings were just a little too disastrous (a paltry 0.10 demo average) and the buzz not quite as substantial. So this one was cancelled after two seasons, and it was probably lucky to make it that long.

The Bible (History): Last summer, the largely dormant miniseries format surged back to relevance on History with Hatfields & McCoys. This spring, History has done it again with The Bible. The miniseries premiered on March 3 with a phenomenal 13.1 million viewers and a 3.3 demo rating. It's since dropped noticeably, but it's still consistently pulled over ten million viewers and an upper-2 demo. With last night's finale ratings pending, it's averaging a whooping 2.81, stronger than any of the broadcast offerings on Sunday lately. Info about last night's finale should be available soon!

Vikings (History): And History has looked to launch an ongoing series after what they probably correctly assumed would be a strong The Bible lead-in. New drama Vikings has posted solid ratings by any cable network standard, premiering to a 2.0 on March 3 and hanging at around a 1.4 in the three weeks since for a 1.56 average to date. But I'm waiting to see what happens after The Bible is gone before I anoint this the next big thing.

END PART ONE - Part two covering Lifetime, Showtime, Syfy, TBS, TNT and USA is now live!

For more, check out the previous cable guides here at SpoilerTV:

January/February 2013 | December 2012 | November 2012 | Late Summer 2012 | Early Fall 2012

Check out the previous Cable Guides dating back to September 2011 on the Cable Guide label!

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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