ESPN, MTV Get Ratings Gains With Gridiron and Gaga

The first full week of September was dominated by grenades, Gaga and gridiron action, as Jersey Shore, the VMAs and the return of college football led to some significant ratings wins at ESPN and MTV.

For the week ended Sept. 12, ESPN notched what promises to be the first of many autumn victories, averaging 3.74 million total viewers in prime, of which just under half (1.8 million) were members of the 18-49 and 25-54 demos. The sports net also took second place among the 18-34 set, drawing 964,000.

ESPN got off to a running start Monday night, delivering 9.89 million viewers with its 8 p.m.-11:39 p.m. telecast of the Boise State-Virginia Tech game. The Broncos and Hokies were okey dokey, joining forces to serve up ESPN’s second most-watched NCAA football telecast in its 31-year history. (The Sept. 6 delivery trails only ESPN’s telecast of USC’s 18-15 victory at Ohio State, which drew 10.6 million viewers on Sept. 12, 2009.)

Boise State’s 33-30 victory delivered the greatest number of adults 25-54, per Nielsen, averaging 5.07 million members of the core demo. The game also took second among viewers 18-49, drawing 5.14 million.

On Saturday evening, Alabama dispatched Penn State by a 24-3 margin, in a lopsided win that still managed to draw 7.12 million viewers, including 3.47 million 18-49s and 3.43 million 25-54s. Lead-in Miami-Ohio State set the table with 5.75 million total viewers/3.09 million viewers 18-49/2.91 million adults 25-54.

Although USA Network was shut out of the top 10 on the individual program front, the entertainment property took second among total viewers in prime, averaging 2.76 million, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data. USA also slipped to third place with viewers 18-49 (1.05 million) and tied History for second among adults 25-54 (1.15 million).

On the week, USA’s biggest draw was Covert Affairs, which scared up 5.4 million viewers in its Tuesday 10 p.m. time slot. With two episodes to go before the season finale, the spy caper drew 2.28 million 25-54s and 2.12 million 18-49s.

Covert lead-in White Collar enjoyed the largest delivery of its sophomore run, luring 4.72 million viewers, including 2.02 million 25-54s and 1.83 million 18-49s.

MTV nailed down a third-place finish, averaging 2.7 million viewers, while winning the 18-34 set outright with 1.37 million. The net took second among 18-49s (1.75 million) and held its own among the older set, finishing fourth with adults 25-54 (1.09 million).

The 2010 Video Music Awards gave MTV its biggest audience since 2002, locking in 11.4 million viewers Sunday night between 9 p.m. and 11:15 p.m.  Taylor Swift and Kanye West did not reunite in song, but Lady Gaga’s meat dress and the impish stylings of Justin Bieber helped draw a crowd, as MTV saw its 12-34 ratings improve by 33 percent versus last year’s telecast.

The VMAs also drew a whopping 7.41 million viewers 18-49 and 5.47 million 18-34s.

On Thursday night, Sammi and JWoww threw down on a much-anticipated installment of Jersey Shore, and the catfight helped snare 6.38 million viewers at 10 p.m. Of that overall draw, 69 percent, or 4.39 million viewers, were members of the 18-49 demo. Another 3.55 million 18-34s tuned in as JWoww and Snooki outfitted themselves with homemade HazMat suits in order to clean the Smush Room in preparation for the diminutive roommate’s planned hook-up.

Closing out the top five were TNT (2.33 million total viewers) and History (2.25 million). The Turner net put up some reliably showy numbers with its Monday night lineup of The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles, drawing 7.92 million and 7.24 million viewers, respectively.

On the week, TNT secured its best demo performance by delivering 1.05 million 25-54s in prime.  

Led by its Monday night unscripted juggernaut Pawn Stars, History finished second on the week among adults 25-54, drawing 1.15 million, while finishing fourth with 18-49s (1.02 million). At 10:30 p.m., a new edition of Pawn Stars drew 5.93 million viewers, of which 3.32 million were members of the 25-54 set. Pawn also served up 3.17 million viewers 18-49. At 10 p.m., History’s first new Pawn installment of the night drew 5.7 million viewers/3.07 million 25-54s/2.87 million 18-49s.