LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Several cable networks were blessed Sunday night with strong ratings from a range of high-profile shows, including Lifetime Television’s “Army Wives.”
The female-targeted network recruited 3.5 million total viewers to the premiere of its 10 p.m. drama series, according to Nielsen Media Research. That figure makes “Wives” the most-watched series premiere in the network’s 23-year history and its biggest total-viewer delivery in the time slot since December.
The series, an ensemble drama starring Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell, also won its time slot in the key female demographic group of viewers age 18-49 (1.2 million viewers and a 2.1 rating, Lifetime’s highest in the time period in more than three years). Among women 18-34, “Wives” gave Lifetime its biggest rating (1.8, 502,000) in the time period in five years.
“Wives” also built on its lead-in, the two-hour original movie “Write & Wrong,” starring Kirstie Alley, which averaged 2.6 million viewers.
Previously, the most-watched series premieres on Lifetime were the dramas “Missing” (3.3 million viewers in 2003) and “The Division” (3.2 million in 2001).
Lifetime Networks president of entertainment Susanne Daniels was hesitant to speculate whether she thinks this bodes well for two other new drama series also debuting on a Sunday night (July 15) — “Side Order of Life” (8 p.m.) and “State of Mind” (9 p.m.) — as part of an ambitious summer programming strategy.
In other cable ratings news, the penultimate episode of HBO’s “The Sopranos” at 9 p.m. Sunday averaged 8 million total viewers, up from the previous week’s 7.7 million. The episode viewership ranks as the second-most-watched of the year behind the premiere episode of the second half of the series’ sixth and final season, which drew 8.2 million on April 8.
Factoring in multiple runs, “Sopranos” is averaging 11.7 million weekly viewers this year, off from the average 13 million viewers for the first half of the season.
Following “Sopranos,” the third-season finale of HBO’s “Entourage” averaged 3.4 million at 10 p.m., on par with its previous performance for the year. (Fans won’t have to wait long for new episodes of the show; the fourth season kicks off June 17.)
Meanwhile, the 2007 MTV Movie Awards, airing live for the first time at 8-10 p.m. Sunday, showed growth in total viewers and the network’s key demo of persons 12-34 over last year’s telecast. The ceremony, hosted by Sarah Silverman, averaged 3.6 million total viewers, up 13 percent from last year. In 12-34, an average of 2.6 million viewers tuned in, up 10 percent over the 2006 show and topping all broadcast and cable programming for the night.
At FX, recently renewed drama series “The Riches” had its first-season finale at 10 p.m. Monday. The episode averaged 1.8 million total viewers, which marks a steep drop of 54 percent from the series’ premiere (3.8 million). In adults 18-49, “Riches” averaged 1 million viewers, less than half of the premiere (2.5 million). But it should be noted that FX puts an emphasis on the cumulative numbers garnered over its series’ multiple plays rather than single-episode figures.
Meanwhile, Food Network saw strong numbers Sunday for the third-season premiere of “The Next Food Network Star,” which became the most-watched series premiere ever for the channel with an average of 4.7 million viewers, up 21 percent over Season 2’s debut. The 9 p.m. episode also posted a 0.8 rating in adults 25-54, a 33 percent increase over the Season 2 premiere and a 100 percent increase over the year-ago time period.
At Oxygen, the network’s longest-running original series, “Snapped,” received its highest season-to-date ratings with its 10 p.m. episode Sunday. The episode of the show, now in its fifth season, garnered a 0.5 among women 18-49. The series also tied its season-to-date high in women 25-54 with a 0.5 rating.
At Disney Channel, “Hannah Montana” ranked as the No. 1 telecast of the week ending Sunday in its target demos of kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14. The 7 p.m. episode Wednesday averaged 1.4 million viewers and a 5.8 rating in 9-14 and 1.6 million and a 6.5 in 6-11.