Looks like the DVR won't be getting that much-needed summer vacation.
Not every network has released their summer skeds just yet, but it's clear that there will be an unprecedented number of scripted skeins on the broadcast networks from June through August. And of course, cable networks have long seen the warm-weather months as a time for its originals to shine.
"Monk" and "The Closer" are examples of cable shows that thrived out of the box in part because of a dirth of competition during summer. Those bowing this summer won't have that luxury.
TNT alone will be airing nine original dramas this summer -- the most ever for any network -- including new projects from Steven Bochco, Michael Bay and the producers of "Homeland."
After some rough starts in the ratings for shows that premiered in the thick of the broadcast season, TNT has switched gears and decided that it would bow its proven shows in fall, winter and spring and premiere all newcomers in the summer. But this summer, there will be more dramas than ever before on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
"It is exponentially more competitive every year," says Michael Wright, exec VP of programming for TNT. "When we launched 'Closer' in 2005, it was the only original."
Wright says the gradual erosion of ratings in broadcast syndication resulted in the need for new syndicated broadcast series on cable networks. But now with so many networks in the summer scripted pool, simply getting on viewers' radars is a challenge.
"Awareness is everything," he says. "Letting the audience know something is on, is our top priority.
"Loud means the audience notices, and buzz means the critics love it. You'd like to have both."
TNT will have the NBA Playoffs as a promotional platform for the launches of Bochco's "Murder in the First" on June 9 (paired with "Major Crimes") and Bay's "The Last Ship" on June 22 (alongside "Falling Skies"). And toward the end of summer, the net will premiere "Legends," from "Homeland's" Howard Gordon and Alexander Cary and "Fringe" co-executive producer David Wilcox.
CBS, which realized a couple of years ago that diminishing ratings returns for its drama repeats meant it had to consider summer originals, it is airing four firstrun dramas this year -- including last year's breakout hit "Under the Dome," which is bowing in late June as it did a year ago. Around that same time, there's also new event series "Extant" starring Halle Berry, as well as crime returnee "Unforgettable" and new legal soap "Reckless."
With reality staple "Big Brother" joining "Unforgettable" and "Reckless," Sundays will be all-original from 8 to 11.
ABC will be airing new drama "Black Box," which bows in late April, into summer and will introduce "The Astronaut Wives' Club" in late July. It also will be bringing back "Mistresses" for its second season as well as Canadian imports "Rookie Blue" (for its fifth season) and "Motive" (its second).
None of the returnees is a ratings juggernaut, but ABC scheduling chief Andy Kubitz says other factors go into the decision to keep them on the schedule.
"With a lot of these summer shows, it has to do with cost," says Kubitz. "Sponsors are out of money in summer, so it's cost vs. reward... it's always a delicate balance because you can't put out a $20-million campaign.
"Consistency from year to year is the best option from a marketing standpoint, and bringing back shows is cost-effective for us."
Fox has a pair of series, "24: Live Another Day" and newcomer "Gang Related," that will bow in May and continue into summer.
And NBC this week announced its summer plans, which includes six scripted original series, including three comedies. There's Amy Poehler-produced "Welcome to Sweden," which is based on her brother Greg's real-life experiences as an ex-pat living in the country, family comedy "Working the Engels" and also "Undateable" from Bill Lawrence's Doozer shingle.
There is also the procedural drama "Taxi Brooklyn," the John Malkovich-starring period pirate drama "Crossbones" and hospital drama "The Night Shift."