Rival cable channels cannot conquer USA Network, they can only hope to contain it.
With less than a week to go before the sun sets on another summer TV season, USA has sewn up its sixth consecutive ratings win for the period, sweeping the key demos and outdistancing its competition by a comfortable margin.
According to preliminary Nielsen ratings data for the weeks spanning May 30 through August 21, USA averaged 3.61 million total viewers in prime time, beating runner-up Disney Channel by 839,000 viewers, or 30 percent. The network also coasted to another summertime sweep of the three major demos, averaging 1.49 million adults 25-54, 1.36 million viewers 18-49 and 574,000 viewers 18-34.
Summer-to-date, USA grew its overall nightly audience by 3 percent versus the year-ago period, while adults 25-54 were up 1 percent. Viewers 18-49 inched up 2 percent versus summer 2010 and 18-34s were off 1 percent.
Among all basic cable networks, only USA and History topped the 1 million mark with viewers 18-49. (History squeezed into the winner’s circle by a margin of 3,000 viewers; its 1 million viewers 18-49 marked a 33 percent increase from last summer’s 754,000.)
In a season of highly touted original series launches, USA introduced two of cable’s most-watched new programs, as Suits averaged 5.92 million total viewers through its first nine episodes, while eight installments of Necessary Roughness served up 5.47 million viewers. (Measurements for the majority of the series’ deliveries are based on live-plus-7-day deliveries, while ratings for the two most recent premieres is a reflection of live-plus-same-day data.)
According to the blended Nielsen data, Suits and Roughness also were was the No. 2 and No. 3 most-watched new series on cable among TV’s prized 18-49 set, averaging 2.63 million and 2.22 million members of the demo, respectively.
(While the cable researchers tend to talk up their L-7 deliveries, noting that the 7 days of DVR playback provide the most reliable sense of how an audience builds over the course of a week, the networks are credited only for three days of live/time-shifted viewing plus commercial ratings. That said, there generally isn’t a significant difference between the deliveries at the end of day three and day seven.)
Non-ad-supported Disney Channel took second place during the solstice, averaging 2.77 million total viewers in prime, flat versus a year ago. Unsurprisingly, it won with kids 2-11 (1.62 million, up 6 percent) and kids 6-11 (1.28 million, up 11 percent).
Disney boasted the second most watched program of the summer, drawing 10.7 million L-7 viewers with its August 5 premiere of the Phineas and Ferb Movie. (ESPN beat all comers with its presentation of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final; the July 17 USA-Japan match drew 13.5 million L-7 viewers.)
TNT was also flat in prime, serving up 2.55 million nightly viewers. The Turner network finished third among the two key demos, drawing 953,000 viewers 18-49 (down 2 percent) and 1.1 million adults 25-54 (down 3 percent).
The alien invasion strip Falling Skies gave TNT bragging rights to the season’s No. 1 new cable series, averaging 6.91 million viewers in its Sunday night time slot. Skies ran away with the two demos, averaging 3.74 million adults 25-54 and 3.29 million viewers 18-49.
TNT also got a lift from its new lawyer/buddy dramedy Franklin & Bash. The series served up 3.91 million viewers in the course of its freshman run, thereby earning itself a renewal. Forty-eight percent of F&B’s deliveries were time-shifted, per Nielsen.
History continues to be a ratings juggernaut, growing its nightly deliveries 38 percent to 2.26 million viewers, while upping its share of 25-54s by 34 percent (1.11 million) and 18-49s by 33 percent (1 million).
The network launched a new hit in American Restoration (3.61 million viewers, of which half were adults 25-54) and drew a crowd with three returning series. Pawn Stars this summer averaged 7.28 million viewers, trailing only MTV’s Jersey Shore (8.57 million), and TNT’s one-two combo of Rizzoli & Isles (8.05 million) and The Closer (7.93 million). Also putting up big ratings for History were American Pickers (6.01 million viewers) and Swamp People (5.41 million).