Lifetime’s Army Wives Enlists Viewers

Lifetime Television’s new show, Army Wives, stormed the ratings hill Sunday night, becoming the most-watched series premiere in the 23-year history of the network.

Army Wives -- starring Kim Delaney and Catherine Bell in an ensemble drama about the struggles and friendships of a diverse group of women and one man living with their spouses and families on a live army base -- attracted 3.5 million viewers June 3, according to Nielsen Media Research data.

The debut topped the premieres of Missing, which starred Vivica A. Fox as an FBI agent and pulled in 3.3 million viewers in 2003; and The Division, which showcased Nancy McKeon and Bonnie Bedalia as San Francisco cops and garnered 3.2 million viewers in 2001.

The show’s delivery of persons 2+ and its 2.9 household rating were Lifetime’s best in the 10 p.m. time slot since Dec. 17, 2006, with telefilm The Road to Christmas.

On the demo front, Army Wives, according to network officials, ranked first in all of basic cable among women 25-54 in the time period; finished first among women 18-49 in the time period and was Lifetime’s best mark since January 2004; and became the distaff-aimed service’s best tally among women 18-34 since May 2002.

Elsewhere, officials said video streams of the installment on -- the first time Lifetime ran an entire episode of a show online -- grew 94% from Sunday to Monday. Moreover, the Army Wives section on the Web site recorded the most traffic of any of the network’s fare since Lifetime Original Movie The Fantasia Barrino Story: Life Is Not a Fairy Tale in August.

Finally on Yahoo’s Buzz Index report, the search term Army Wives increased 444% from Sunday to Monday, trailing only Meet the Press and Entourage. It also ranked fifth in Google’s Hot Trends Sunday, according to Lifetime officials.

The strong opening was gratifying to Lifetime Networks Entertainment president Susanne Daniels.

“We’re elated by the performance. This is a well-written, well-acted show that so many people at the studio [ABC Studios], the production company [The Mark Gordon Co.] and Lifetime all worked so hard on,” Daniels said. “It’s a great pat on the back when the efforts are recognized by viewers and online.”

The premiere also set the bar higher for the July 15 debuts of Side Order of Life and State of Mind, which will join Army Wives on basic cable’s first ever night hosting three one-hour original dramas.

“We’re off to a good start and believe Side Order of Life and State of Mind are also strong shows,” Daniels said, adding that she hopes at least one out of three will emerge as a hit for the network. “That’s an average that will let me sleep well.”

Side Order centers on a young magazine photographer who re-evaluates her life and impending nuptials after receiving a “wake-up call from the universe,” while Mind examines the world of a brilliant psychiatrist whose personal problems rival those of her quirky patients.