USA Takes 3Q in Demos, Viewers


USA Network nailed down yet another stellar ratings quarter, running away with the two major TV demos and drawing 3.26 million total viewers in prime.

For the period spanning June 28-Sept. 27, USA served up 1.25 million viewers 18-49, a decrease of 8 percent from its prior-year delivery, while sailing to another victory among adults 25-54 (1.37 million, down 8 percent from a record 1.56 million in Q3 ‘09).
Unlike quarters past, USA failed to sweep the demos, as a resurgent MTV stole the 18-34 crown with an average draw of 632,000, up a whopping 53 percent from a year ago. USA trailed in the younger demo by around 70,000 viewers, per Nielsen ratings data.
USA posted its best program delivery with the mid-season finale of Royal Pains, which drew 8.14 million viewers upon the addition of seven days of DVR viewing. (The day after the show’s August 26 airdate, Nielsen live-plus-same-day data pegged Royal Pains’ delivery at 6.08 million viewers. As such, time-shifted viewing raised the episode’s overall audience by 34 percent.)

Per L+7 data, Pains lead-in Burn Notice scared up 8.09 million viewers in the 9 p.m. slot, up 29 percent from the LSD delivery (6.29 million). Also drawing fire was freshman entry Covert Affairs, which drew a season-high 5.87 million viewers on August 24. With the additional week of time-shifted viewing, that number grew 35 percent to 7.91 million viewers.

TNT maintained second place among all ad-supported cable nets, drawing 2.55 million total viewers in prime, an increase of 7 percent versus the year-ago period. The Turner net finished second among adults 25-54, averaging 1.1 million (down 1 percent), while dipping 3 percent in its delivery of viewers 18-49, averaging 937,000.
The network saw its biggest decline among the 18-34 crowd, falling 7 percent to 340,000.
Seven episodes of TNT’s newest drama series Rizzoli & Isles landed in the top 20, while lead-in The Closer accounted for 5 of the most-watched programs on the quarter. The latter program drew 9.38 million L7 viewers, an increase of 19 percent versus its Sept. 6 airdate (7.92 million). On the same night, the penultimate episode of Rizzoli & Isles’ premiere run drew 7.24 million viewers in its 10 p.m. time slot; with L7, the show saw a lift of 29 percent (9.3 million).

With a full month of football on the books, ESPN once again claimed third place in prime, averaging 2.18 million viewers, down 6 percent versus Q3 ’09. The sports net won the silver with its delivery of viewers 18-49 (1.05 million, down 5 percent) while taking the bronze with the 25-54 set (1.07 million, down 5 percent).
Drew Brees and the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints helped deliver the largest cable audience of 2010, as week two of ESPN’s Monday Night Football drew 15.1 million viewers on Sept. 20. Through its first three MNF games of the 2010-11 NFL season––premiere week kicked off with a twin bill––ESPN is averaging 14 million viewers, up 3 percent from 13.6 million a year ago.

ESPN is also enjoying a lift courtesy of its college football roster. The network’s presentation of the Sept. 9 Boise State-Virginia Tech brawl delivered 9.9 million viewers, making it the second most-watched college football game in ESPN history. (Last season’s USC-Ohio State battle delivered 10.6 million viewers.)

Also drawing a crowd for Bristol was the Sept. 11 Penn State-Alabama grudge match. The Crimson Tide’s lopsided 24-3 pasting of the Nittany Lions delivered 7.15 million viewers between 7:10 p.m. and 10:18 p.m.
Fox News Channel dropped 19 percent in Q3, with an average nightly delivery of 1.84 million viewers. In the core demo, FNC fell 24 percent in prime, averaging 448,000 adults 25-54. That said, FNC’s losses were in stark contrast to those suffered by CNN. Finishing No. 33 among ad-supported cable outlets, CNN averaged just 513,000 prime time viewers, a decline of 46 percent versus the year-ago 949,000. (At that time, CNN was already contending with a 30 percent drop-off rate.)

CNN also lost nearly half (48 percent) of its 25-54 deliveries, averaging just 149,000 members of the demo in prime. Among the news nets, MSNBC’s shortcomings were the least profound, as total viewers dropped 13 percent to 693,000, while adults 25-54 fell 16 percent to 230,000.
History continued to repeat itself, climbing nine spots to close out the top five with 1.72 million viewers, a gain of 42 percent year-over-year. The net finished fourth among adults 25-54, averaging 882,000 (up 39 percent), and claimed fifth place with the 18-49 crowd, drawing 802,000 (up 37 percent).

On July 5, the 10:30 installment of Pawn Stars served up 6.34 million viewers, marking History’s largest crowd of the quarter. With a week of time-shifted viewing, that delivery grew13 percent to 7.15 million.

Rounding out the top 10 in Q3 were: Nick at Nite (1.65 million viewers, down 8 percent); TBS (1.52 million, down 5 percent); A&E (1.5 million, up 5 percent); ABC Family (1.37 million, down 1 percent) and Cartoon Network/Adult Swim (1.34 million, up 13 percent).

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