MNF Kicks Up November Ratings Win For ESPN

ESPN closed out November as the top-rated cable channel, averaging 3.14 million total viewers and sweeping the three major demos.

According to Nielsen ratings data for the month, the sports net delivered an average 1.54 million adults 25-54, an increase of 4 percent versus November 2007. ESPN also beat all comers among the 18-49 set, averaging 1.53 million, while taking the 18-34 crown with 731,000 viewers.

Delivery of the younger demo was off by 10 percent versus the year-ago period, while the 18-49 number was down slightly (-2 percent).

Monday Night Football accounted for five of the month’s most-watched programs on ad-supported cable, including the Nov. 3 Steelers-Redskins game, which scared up 14.2 million viewers. On the night before Election Day, Pittsburgh stomped the ‘Skins 23-6 in front of November’s second-largest cable audience.

USA Network took second on the month, averaging just shy of 2.8 million viewers, while also securing the first runner-up prize among 18-49s (1.39 million), 25-54s (1.4 million) and 18-34s (650,000). The NBC Universal net notched its most significant growth among the 18-34 demo, upping its delivery by 9 percent versus the same time a year ago.

An historic and frenzied presidential race culminated in a big ratings coup for Fox News Channel, which blew up its nightly viewership numbers by 83 percent versus the relatively sleepy November 2007 period, averaging 2.57 million viewers. The news net also grew its core demo by 106 percent in prime, averaging 676,000 adults 25-54.

FNC posted its largest program ratings on Election Night, averaging 9.45 million viewers at 9 p.m. and 9.32 million viewers in the previous hour.

While cable news is beginning to slow down in the wake of the Nov. 4 finale, FNC last week was still well up over its year-ago average, delivering 1.53 million total viewers between Nov. 24-30, an improvement of 29.5 percent over the 1.18 million viewers it drew in the final week of November 2007.

TNT took fourth place on the month, with 1.94 million viewers. The Turner net grew its share of both 18-49s and 25-54s by 5 percent; the latter demo was TNT’s strongest (955,000). Fifth place went to TBS, which fell 7 percent to 1.8 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were: CNN, up 124 percent in prime with an average delivery of 1.71 million viewers; Nick-at-Nite (up 13 percent to 1.67 million); MSNBC (up a whopping 162 percent to 1.5 million); Hallmark Channel (up 6 percent to 1.45 million) and Cartoon Network (up 11 percent to 1.45 million).

CNN boasted the five top-rated cable shows that weren’t on ESPN, including the 11 p.m.-midnight segment of its Election Night coverage. After the network called the race for President-Elect Barack Obama, some 15.3 million viewers stayed up to watch Sen. John McCain’s concession speech and his opponent’s victory address.

For the month, CNN grew the news demo by an astonishing 184 percent, averaging 659,000 adults 25-54. The network also made strides among the 18-49 demo, growing 218 percent to 616,000 viewers.

While CNN has also settled down since the election wrapped, its average delivery of 952,000 viewers last week still marked an 80 percent improvement over its year-ago average of 529,000 viewers. The same principle applies to MSNBC, which last week averaged 901,000 viewers in prime, up 78.8 percent versus the final week of November 2007.

In the 11-30 range, the biggest gainers in November were: ABC Family, up 24 percent to 1.38 million prime-time viewers; ESPN2, up 19 percent to 886,000; Comedy Central, up 16 percent to 1.27 million viewers and A&E, which grew 10 percent to 1.32 million viewers.