USA Network Sweeping July Ratings Race

Powered by a red hot lineup of original drama series, USA Network is enjoying a scorching summer season, sweeping the July ratings race with its deliveries of total viewers and the three core TV demos.

Per Nielsen ratings data for the period spanning June 28-July 25, USA averaged 3.13 million total viewers, thanks in large part to its quartet of homegrown series (Burn Notice, Royal Pains, White Collar and newcomer Covert Affairs).

USA served up its single largest audience of the month on July 1, as the fifth episode of Royal Pains’ sophomore season drew 7.01 million viewers upon application of seven days of DVR playback. This represents a 32 percent increase from the 5.32 million viewers who originally tuned in, per L+SD ratings. That same night, lead-in Burn Notice scared up 5.21 million viewers at 9 p.m.; that number jumped 30 percent to 6.78 million with a week’s worth of time-shifted viewing.

The new Piper Perabo spy thriller Covert Affairs also showed some impressive firepower, drawing 4.88 million viewers in its July 13 debut before going on to improve 7 percent the following week with 5.21 million viewers. Per L+7 ratings, the season finale of In Plain Sight drew 5.17 million viewers on Jun 30, an improvement of 34 percent from the original delivery (3.85 million).

At USA, only second-year strip White Collar showed signs of wilting a bit in the July heat. The show returned as the Tuesday night lead-in to Covert Affairs, drawing 4.29 million viewers in the 9 p.m. slot. The following week, Collar averaged 3.96 million viewers, dropping 8 percent. (That’s still well within the standard deviation of –15 to –20 percent for a second installment.)

On the month, USA took the key demos, averaging 1.3 million adults 25-54 and 1.17 million viewers 18-49. Both deliveries represent a 14 percent decline from July 2009. USA also won the 18-34 title, averaging 511,000 (down 12 percent).

TNT laid claim to four of the most-watched programs on basic cable, as season six of The Closer premiered July 12 to 7.66 million viewers. That same night, lead-out newbie Rizzoli & Isles bowed to 7.55 million viewers, retaining 99 percent of The Closer’s delivery.

The following week, R&I returned 96 percent of its premiere audience, as the second episode of the Angie Harmon-Sasha Alexander drama attracted 7.27 million viewers. That same night, The Closer put up some big numbers as well, drawing 6.97 million viewers, down 9 percent from its season opener.

TNT also drew a crowd with its coverage of Nascar Sprint Cup action and its original series Memphis Beat, Leverage and Hawthorne.

The Turner network averaged 2.51 million viewers in prime, down 4 percent from the year-ago period. TNT also took second among the two largest demos, dropping 10 percent among adults 25-54 (1.09 million) and 18-49s (1.02 million).

Fox News Channel closed out the month in third place, averaging 1.85 million total viewers in prime, a drop of 11 percent from July 2009’s 2.08 million. The news net finished 18th among the coveted 25-54 demo, falling 14 percent to 461,000 viewers.

History enjoyed the most substantive growth among all cable networks, improving 33 percent to 1.58 million total viewers. The channel’s Monday night tandem of Pawn Stars and American Pickers helped bring in viewers by the score, including adults 25-54 (784,000, up 27 percent) and 18-49s (710,000, also up 27 percent).

Pawn Stars drew History’s biggest crowd on July 5, as the 10:30 p.m. installment of the unscripted hit averaged 7.15 million viewers––good for sixth place on the month, and marking a 13 percent jump from the original L+SD numbers.  At 10 p.m., Pawn served up 6.97 million L+7 fans (up 14 percent). Lead-in Pickers was also a big performer in July. The Monday after Independence Day saw Pickers average 5.59 million viewers in its 9 p.m. time slot, per L+7 data, up 12 percent from the original 5.01 million L+SD delivery.