The TV Column: LeBron James’s loss is ABC’s ratings gain

June 14, 2011

The NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the champion Dallas Mavericks brought record ratings to ABC, according to Nielsen numbers out Tuesday.

Here’s a look at the week’s winners and losers:

Winners

NBA Finals. LeBron James just keeps on giving to Disney. Nearly 24 million people tuned in Sunday night to Disney-owned ABC to watch the Heat star suffer the NBA championship loss he so richly deserved after subjecting us to last summer’s “The Decision: After the Final Rose” special on Disney-owned ESPN — on which he announced that he was dumping Cleveland for Miami to get “the best opportunity to win.”

Thanks to Sunday’s Game 6, ABC scored its most-watched summer week in nearly 10 years. And by “nearly 10 years,” we mean the week of Aug. 20, 2001, when ABC also finished first, thanks to another special broadcast that averaged 24 million viewers: when Connie Chung asked Rep. Gary Condit whether he’d killed missing intern Chandra Levy.

Tony Awards. Against LeBron James’s comeuppance, this year’s Tonycast on CBS attracted 6.95 million viewers. Last year’s Tonycast averaged 6.98 million while also going head-to-head with an NBA Finals game — only that game clocked about 19 million fans instead of 24 million. From which we can conclude: The NBA Finals audience and the Tony Awards audience are not the same crowd, and they can peacefully coexist on a Sunday night in June.

“Tosh.0” Comedy Central has ordered a fourth season of its most-watched series, in which comic Daniel Tosh shows us how to cash in on viral videos posted by others. An average of more than 4 million people watch this Tuesday series, which is the top-rated show on all of TV among young men on Tuesday nights.

Losers

“CBS Evening News.” The TV ratings gods handed “CBS Evening News” its greatest gift on the day Scott Pelley debuted as its anchor: an afternoon news conference in which Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) admitted that the bulging gray undies were his and that he had tweeted the shot to a fan. Tragically, “CBS Evening News” spurned this munificent gift and opened the newscast with a report on Afghanistan, while those sly foxes at “NBC Nightly News” snatched the Weiner story and owned it. (NBC’s Brian Williams mooned broodily like Hamlet that “The age of oversharing has claimed another man.”)

More than 8 million people watched Williams that night — outpacing CBS’s newscast by about 2 million. Pelley finished the week on par with Couric’s third-placed ratings performance in her final few weeks, though CBS noted optimistically that he finished about 300,000 viewers ahead of the same week last year.

“Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” Game 6 of the NBA Finals spared the Tony Awards, but came down on the Kardashian family like a blunt object hitting them on the head as they trod on a banana peel. The sixth-season debut of E!’s “Kardashians” mustered a puny 2.5 million viewers opposite the game Sunday, compared with opening night of the K clan’s Season 5, which attracted about 5 million.

“The Glee Project.” While the NBA Finals smote the Kardashians on Sunday, the unveiling of Oxygen network’s “The Glee Project” curled up and died like a salted snail in the presence of the Tony Awards. Only 455,000 people — and only 80,000 of the 18-to-34-year-old chicks who are Oxygen’s target audience — bothered to watch the first episode of this reality series, in which the winner is promised a seven-episode story arc on the scripted Fox series “Glee.” The trade Web site the Hollywood Reporter called the ratings a “head scratcher.” Really? THR stuck to its story, noting that Oxygen spent millions promoting the premiere, that TV critics fawned over it and that a music video of the competitors performing a Katy Perry number generated a half-million views on YouTube! And yet, it still aired against the Tony Awards, which, New York magazine noted, is the Oscars for “Glee” fans.

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