Will Big Ratings for 'Under the Dome' Change the Future of Summer TV?
Will Big Ratings for 'Under the Dome' Change the Future of Summer TV?
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Summer has always been a time when the major networks give up and accept that no one is watching television. Sure, every network has a big, mindless reality show (The Bachelorette, America's Got Talent, Big Brother, So You Think You Can Dance), but when it comes to scripted television, it's always time to switch to cable because the broadcast networks never try that hard.

Under the Dome is available on Amazon Prime.


That has all changed with Under the Dome, the new CBS drama that premiered with over 13 million viewers, making it the biggest summer launch in six years. Heck, it's bigger than many scripted dramas from the regular season, on par with recent freshman hits like The Following and Revolution.

Under the Dome Premiere Recap>>

This is a fundamental shift in what we expect summer TV to be. We've grown accustomed to networks importing Canadian dramas (Rookie Blue, Motive), or dumping shows that have been gathering dust on the shelf (Save Me, Mistresses, The Goodwin Games). NBC is even trying shows with international flavor (Crossing Lines, Siberia). But none of these has delivered the kind of huge numbers you'd see during the regular season.

This makes Under the Dome massive ratings even more impressive, and something to be studied so networks can try to duplicate this. Outside of America's Got Talent, summer TV is a no man's land compared to the ratings during the regular season, but CBS has cracked the code and, if other networks are smart, they'll follow suit.

The success of Under the Dome, aside from extensive marketing, is most likely name recognition. You need a big name attached to a project for the summer (just ask movie studios), and you don't get much bigger than Stephen King. He's a household name, and when you take a fairly fascinating premise, you have a recipe for big ratings.

The success of Under the Dome is also great news for FOX, a network that already had plans to copy this formula for next summer. In summer 2014, the limited-series return of Kiefer Sutherland's 24 and M. Night Shyamalan's Wayward Pines (starring Matt Dillon) will debut. Those are the kind of marquee names and event scripted dramas that are likely to capture the same kind of excitement as Under the Dome.

I'm not sure why it's taken networks this long to figure out the most obvious path to success: Name recognition. Elementary is about Sherlock Holmes, a character everyone knows and loves. The Following stars Kevin Bacon. That's what brings in viewers. Stephen King, Jack Bauer, M. Night Shyamalan, that's how you grow a successful TV series.

What you don't do is bank on Alyssa Milano as a leading lady (Mistresses) or hope that Donald Sutherland traveling across Europe (Crossing Lines) is something people want to watch. Networks can't simply repurpose shows from other countries or hope that TV audiences aren't savvy enough to notice when a show is only airing because it's paid for, but wasn't good enough for the regular season.

Under the Dome has proven that there is an audience for big scripted programming in the summer. Now the other networks just need to take the cue and stop throwing garbage at the wall hoping it will stick (I'm looking at you, Nick Lachey's The Winner Is...).


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(Image courtesy of CBS)

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