What ABC Family’s Recent Ratings Mean for a ‘Bunheads’ Renewal

Pretty Little Liars, the crown jewel in ABC Family's catalog of Tweet-inducing scripted series, returned Tuesday to 2.97 million viewers -- rising from last year's opener and giving the four-season-old series its best summer debut among the younger adults and women.

The flagship's return means summer is in full swing for the cable network, which also sees debut seasons for dramas The Fosters and Twisted as well as the return of Switched at Birth. Absent from the schedule is Bunheads. Amy Sherman-Palladino's critically adored dramedy wrapped its modest freshman season in February, and while word of a renewal or cancelation would normally have come months ago, ABC Family is holding off on a decision to see how its new summer series pan out. (The network is doing the same with The Lying Game, though the sophomore's future been subject to less public speculation.)

PHOTOS: Summer TV Preview

Bunheads opened in June 2012 to 1.64 million viewers, considered a solid scripted debut for the network. It averaged brought in equally strong returns with women 18-49 adults 18-49, growing significantly in its second week, but soon dipped. At the end of the season, the series ended up averaging 1.25 million viewers in Live+Same Day. DVR increases brought the series up to 1.88 million viewers, but it dipped in the second half of its run more than most of its network neighbors.

ABC Family's other freshman series from summer 2012, Switched at Birth, also returned this week. And where its season one averages were relatively in-line with Bunheads, the premiere did see an uptick for the family drama. Switched at Birth averaged 1.66 million viewers and more robust showings in the demos.

The two biggest determiners for Bunheads will be this summer's new entries: Twisted and The Fosters. Twisted, which had a harder-to-gauge premiere with the rebroadcast of its winter-sampled pilot, opened to 1.61 million viewers after a strong Pretty Little Liars lead-in. As for The Fosters, the series saw double-digit growth in its second outing with 1.7 million viewers

Through all of this, a second season of Bunheads (like a third for The Lying Game) is still on the table. The series was recently selected to receive some of the state of California's $100 million in annual tax credits for local filming should it come to fruition. But ABC Family is clearly angling for its next Pretty Little Liars. And if this summer's offerings continue to track north of the bubble ballet drama, the network seems likely to stay the current course.

Here's a complete rundown of the recent ABC Family premieres and Bunheads' freshman averages:

Pretty Little Liars: Season Four Premiere
2.97 million viewers; 1.08 million women 18-34, 1.62 million adults 18-49

Switched at Birth: Season Two Premiere
1.66 million viewers; 393,000 women 18-34; 855,000 adults 18-49.

Twisted: Series Premiere
1.61 million viewers; 435,000 women 18-34; 662,000 adults 18-49

The Fosters: Second Episode
1.7 million viewers; 379,000 women 18-34; 781,000 adults 18-49.

Bunheads: Season One Averages
1.25 million viewers (Live+Same); 301,000 women 18-34; 635,000 adults 18-49
1.88 million viewers; 469,000 women 18-34; 993,000 adults 18-49 (Live+Seven)

Michael O'Connell