USA Takes Hold of Q2 Crown

Cable ratings were all over the map in the second quarter of 2010, as 22 of the top 40 ad-supported networks experienced declines in prime-time deliveries. Nine outlets suffered double-digit dropoffs versus the year-ago period, while seven of the 17 nets that outperformed their Q2 2009 numbers saw increases of 10 percent or better.

USA Network won the quarter, averaging 3.21 million total viewers for the period spanning March 29-June 27. That delivery was flush with the network’s prior-year number. USA also claimed the two major TV demos, averaging 1.33 million adults 25-54 (down 11 percent) and 1.2 million viewers 18-49 (down 14 percent).

The NBC Universal powerhouse was lifted by returning series Burn Notice and Royal Pains. The Thursday night tandem stands as cable’s most reliable draw in Q2, as season three of Burn Notice is averaging 6.51 million viewers thus far, while Royal Pains is serving up 6.48 million.

The two USA shows are also tops among their target demo, drawing 3.06 million (Pains) and 2.98 million (Burn) adults 25-54.

Second place on the quarter went to TNT. The Turner net averaged 2.45 million total viewers in prime, down 8 percent from a year ago, of which just a hair under 1.2 million were members of the 18-49 demo (down 10 percent). TNT also took second place with an average draw of 1.21 million adults 25-54 (down 10 percent).

TNT won the 18-34 demo outright, averaging 580,000 viewers, a decline of 10 percent year-over-year.

For the quarter, TNT boasted one of the most-watched new series on basic cable, as Memphis Beat averaged 4.33 million viewers in its June 22 premiere. Much of TNT’s momentum was generated by its NBA playoff coverage, which included the Western Conference Championship battle between the Lakers and Suns. The five-game series gave TNT six of the quarter’s top 20 most-watched programs, including the penultimate meeting on May 27, which served up 8.71 million viewers, of which 4.74 million were members of the 18-49 set.

Fox News Channel held onto third place, falling 10 percent in prime with an average delivery of 1.91 million total viewers. Adults 25-54 were down 9 percent from Q2 ‘09 (473,000).

Fourth place went to ESPN, which improved 2 percent to 1.74 million viewers. The sports net finished third among adults 25-54 (834,000, up 3 percent) and claimed fourth place with 848,000 viewers 18-49 (up 3 percent) and 431,000 viewers 18-34 (up 3 percent).

ESPN played host to six of the quarter’s most-watched programs, including the May 13 Celtics-Cavaliers playoff that drew 9 million. Bristol also whipped up a crowd with the Magic-Celtics Eastern Conference Championship series and the NFL Draft.

Nick-at-Nite retained fifth place on the quarter, drawing an average crowd of 1.74 million viewers between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., marking a 6 percent increase. In total day, NAN precursor Nickelodeon once again beat all comers, averaging 2.21 million total viewers.

Taking sixth place was History, which enjoyed a meteoric Q2 run, growing its nightly deliveries by a staggering 40 percent with an average draw of 1.62 million viewers, of which 807,000 were adults 25-54 (up 37 percent) and 729,000 18-49s (up 36 percent). History boasted two of the hottest programs on cable, as Pawn Stars averaged 5.36 million viewers in its Monday night time slots, while lead-in American Pickers was the most-watched new show on cable, drawing an average crowd of 4.42 million viewers.

Rounding out the top 10 were: TBS, which slipped 3 percent to 1.59 million viewers; A&E, up 4 percent to 1.36 million; Discovery Channel, down 4 percent to 1.32 million and Cartoon Network, which jumped 12 percent to 1.31 million viewers.

Among cable nets that ranked between No. 11 and No. 40 in prime, E! showed the greatest quarter-to-quarter growth on a percentile basis, improving 13 percent with an average audience of 624,000 viewers. Also making great strides in Q2 were: Oxygen, which grew its nightly deliveries by 12 percent, averaging 431,000 viewers; Bravo, up 11 percent to 820,000 viewers; TV Land, which gained 10 percent to amass 812,000 viewers and Animal Planet (up 10 percent to 634,000).
Dropping out of the top 30, VH1 lost the most ground in Q2 ’10, falling 32 percent to 527,000 total viewers. Also suffering double-digit declines were: CNN, dropping 31 percent to 596,000 total viewers, of which 175,000 were members of the 25-54 demo (down 27 percent); Hallmark Channel, which fell 23 percent with 730,000 viewers; Spike TV, down 16 percent (855,000); Headline News, down 12 percent (490,000); CMT, off 12 percent to 369,000; FX, down 11 percent to 1.15 million viewers and National Geographic Channel, down 10 percent to 380,000 nightly viewers.

Tops among the core TV demo were: USA, TNT, TBS, ESPN, History, Discovery Channel, A&E, FX, Comedy Central and ABC Family.

Non-ad-supported Disney Channel finished third among all basic cable nets, averaging 2.42 million viewers in prime. The Mouse maintained its stranglehold on the core kids demos, averaging 1.33 million K2-11, 988,000 K6-11 and 801,000 ‘tweens 9-14.