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June 26, 2008

'Baby Borrowers' bounces NBC

The Wednesday night debut of NBC's "The Baby Borrowers" burst the network's run of disappointing summer series premieres. The reality show-as-life lesson series was NBC's best freshman series debut in months and garnered the network's highest nonsports rating in its time period since January.

The timely teen pregnancy-themed "Borrowers" (7.8 million viewers, 2.8 preliminary adults 18-49 rating and an 8 share) clocked in with a solid second place finish at 9 p.m., just a couple tenths behind Fox's night-topping "So You Think You Can Dance" (8.2 million, 3.0/10). Plus, "Borrowers" grew 11% in its second half. "Deal or No Deal" (6.6 million, 1.6/6) served as lead-in and a stable "Celebrity Circus" (5.7 million, 2.0/6) followed, with "Circus" winning its 10 p.m. time period.

The "Baby Borrowers" (see clips here) premiere pop is apt since NBC adopted a baby steps programming strategy to improve its standings this summer. Baby steps to prevent postseason stagnation by adding several new reality shows. Baby steps to raise audience levels by rolling out veteran hit "America's Got Talent" and the Stanley Cup playoffs. Baby steps that hopefully lead right up to having NBC viewers in their seats for the network's presentation of the Summer Olympics in August.

The strategy could be starting to pay off, since after weeks spent usually in fourth place, NBC squeaked into an overall second place in the demo last week. The overall returns are not as sparkling or immediate as the network doubtlessly hoped, but by keeping a constant stream of original programming on during the summer, it's helping NBC avoid becoming uncompetitive in key time periods.   

After Fox and NBC, ABC placed third with the season finale of "Wife Swap" (4.5 million, 1.7/6) coming in second place at 8 p.m., followed by "Supernanny" (4.1 million, 1.4/4) and "Primetime: Crime" (6.8 million, 1.8/5). CBS aired repeats (averaging 7.2 million, 1.5/5). The CW had the season finale of "Farmer Wants a Wife" (2.4 million, 1.0/3).

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