ESPN Rolls to Fifth Straight Title

ESPN continues to steamroll over its cable competition, winning its fifth straight weekly ratings title with an average prime-time delivery of 3.49 million total viewers.

For the week ended Oct. 4, ESPN swept the core TV demos, averaging 1.8 million viewers 18-49, 1.78 million adults 25-54 and 821,000 viewers 18-34.

As has been the case since the season began, the sports network put up some impressive numbers with its NFL and NCAA coverage. On Sept. 28, ESPN set another short-lived record for 2009, serving up 15.7 million viewers with week three of Monday Night Football. (That mark would be eclipsed seven nights later, as the Oct. 5 Brett Bowl drew a whopping 21.8 million total viewers, making it the single most-watched telecast in cable history.)

Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings, some 8.64 million viewers 18-49 and 8.44 million adults 25-54 saw last week’s MNF match-up, in which the Dallas Cowboys nailed down their first win in their new $1.15 billion stadium, beating the Carolina Panthers by a 21-7 margin.

ESPN also boasted another solid College Football Saturday Primetime outing, as the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes upset the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners in a 21-20 nail-biter at Land Shark Stadium. The night game drew 3.53 million viewers, of which 1.67 million were members of the 18-49 demo.

USA Network last week retained the second spot in prime, averaging 2.47 million viewers, while drawing 1.17 million adults 25-54 and 1.15 million viewers 18-49. USA’s biggest delivery on the week came courtesy of Monday night’s WWE Raw, which averaged 4.5 million viewers on Sept. 28 between 9 p.m. and 11:09 p.m.

Fox News Channel held on to its No. 3 ranking, delivering 2.21 million viewers, while finishing tenth among ad-supported cable nets with 545,000 adults 25-54. The news network’s 8 p.m. franchise, The O’Reilly Factor, accounted for its biggest deliveries, drawing 3.56 million viewers Sept. 30, 3.53 million viewers Sept. 29 and 3.44 million viewers on the first of October.

Nick at Nite took fourth on the week (1.75 million viewers), while TBS closed out the top five with an average draw of 1.63 million viewers. Nick at Nite claimed the week’s fourth most-watched program on ad-supported cable, as a new installment of iCarly drew 4.39 million viewers Saturday at 8 p.m.

Among the primary advertiser demo, ESPN’s MNF won the week, serving up 8.64 million adults 18-49. Also drawing a crowd were: Spike TV’s The Ultimate Fighter, which drew 4.12 million 18-49s on Wednesday night; MNF lead-out SportsCenter, averaged 2.64 million members of the demo between 11:37 p.m. and 1:10 a.m.; and FX’ Sons of Anarchy, which continued to hang tough in its Tuesday 10 p.m. slot, averaging 2.5 million 18-49s.

Elsewhere, USA’s WWE Raw averaged 2.12 million 18-49s, while MTV’s LC-free The Hills scared up 1.99 million. Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta whipped up 1.98 million viewers 18-49, edging past E!’s Kourtney & Khloé Take Miami, which picked up 1.83 million curiosity seekers in its Sunday 10 p.m. time slot. A Family Guy repeat nailed down 1.79 million Adult Swim viewers Tuesday at 11:30 p.m., while ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown closed out the top 10 with 1.78 million viewers 18-49.

Last week’s top 10 ad-supported cable nets among the core TV demo were: ESPN, averaging 1.8 million viewers 18-49; USA (1.15 million); TBS (965,000); Spike TV (744,000); FX (663,000); Syfy (661,000); A&E (627,000); TNT (578,000); Comedy Central (547,000) and TNT (538,000).

Non-ad-supported Disney Channel finished the week second among all basic-cable nets, averaging 2.84 million viewers. The Mouse also cruised to another definitive victory in the kiddie demos, drawing 1.12 million K6-11, 1.45 million viewers 6-14 and 932,000 ‘tweens 9-14.

The network enjoyed another strong Friday night, as a special one-hour Suite Life on Deck delivered 6.81 million total viewers, improving 43 percent over its 7:30 p.m. lead-in, a Suite Life repeat that drew 4.82 million viewers. At 9 p.m., Hannah Montana drew 4.14 million viewers.