Commentary

Cable Vies For Another High-Rated Summer -- But So Do Others

Cable networks are always thinking about summer programming --but increasingly, so is everyone else.

Anticipation builds as cable networks hope for the next big hit, while the broadcast networks, for the most part, still sit on the sidelines with reality shows or scripted series for which they have lower expectations.

USA and Turner's networks TNT and TBS, as well as FX and others, have capitalized on the summer doldrums over the last few years. But can they keep up the pace? Recent data suggests cable networks might be slowing down.

The cable share of TV viewing has been able to increase each year  for more than a decade, mostly from new shows that started up in the summer. But last season's 59 share for cable networks was unchanged this year -- as was the broadcast networks' same 39 share versus a year ago.

Cable will again throw up its big shows this summer: USA's "Burn Notice," "Royal Pains," and "White Collar"; TNT's  "The Closer" and "HawthoRNe"; and more niche viewing shows like HBO's "True Blood" and AMC's "Mad Men." New efforts will include TNT's "Memphis Beat" and "Rizzoli & Isles"; TBS' "Neighbors for Hell," FX's "Louie";  USA's "Covert Affairs"; and AMC's "Rubicon."

But broadcast networks are fighting back. Instead of just one-off efforts, ABC, for one, is packaging a whole night of new scripted programming -- Sunday, with new shows "Scoundrels and "The Gates," both debuting June 20th.

Fox is doing something similar with back-to-back new scripted episodes on Monday -- offering up new episodes of an existing show, "Lie to Me," as well as a new series, "The Good Guys."

Digital TV? One wonders whether Hulu, YouTube or perhaps growing video-on-demand services that cable operators have been pushing, will ever make the big inroads that have been promised for years. To a lesser extent, NBC Digital continues to dip its toe in the waters, getting two original Internet shows up and running, the new "Dial*" and second-year show "In Gayle We Trust,"  each 10-episode series' that run four to six minutes per episode.

Cable's launching ground starts in a few weeks. It needs to get a good start. Other TV/video platforms want to get a piece of the action. 

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