TNT Dunks USA, Takes First Ratings Title

TNT slammed the door on USA Network’s year-long winning streak, as an epic first-round NBA playoff series helped the Turner network secure its first ratings crown of 2009.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, TNT averaged 3.45 million total viewers during the week ended May 3, besting its rival by some 600,000 viewers. TNT also repeated it demo sweep of a week ago, serving up 1.9 million viewers 18-49, 1.82 million adults 25-54 and 967,000 viewers 18-34.

Seven was TNT’s lucky number last week. In what may have been the greatest opening-round playoff series in NBA history, the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls notched a record seven overtime periods in seven games. Saturday’s clincher delivered 7 million viewers, as the defending champs advanced to the next round with a 109-99 victory.

Game Seven also put up the week’s biggest demos, averaging 4.05 million 18-49s, 3.94 million 25-54s and 2.07 million 18-34s.

The deciding game out-delivered the most outstanding contest of the series, a triple-overtime marathon that ultimately went to the Bulls by a 128-127 margin. Thursday night’s four-hour contest drew 5.35 million viewers.

USA settled into the relatively unfamiliar confines of second place, with an average delivery of 2.85 million total viewers, 1.31 million 25-54s, 1.26 million 18-49s and 598,000 18-34s.

NBC Universal’s cable powerhouse notched five of the most-watched programs on ad-supported cable last week, including Monday night’s WWE Raw, which drew 5.02 million viewers between 9 p.m. and 11:06 p.m. Four episodes of NCIS also scared up big numbers.

Fox News Channel remained in third place, averaging 2.14 million viewers, 538,000 of which were members of the core news demo. The news net boasted its largest program delivery of the week with the April 30 installment of The O’Reilly Factor, which drew 3.51 million viewers in its 8 p.m. time slot.

Fourth place went to Nickeldeon/Nick-at-Nite, which averaged 1.56 million viewers on the week, squeaking past TBS by a margin of 6,000.

A three-part Fairly Odd Parents movie event, Wishology, attracted a big following, as 4.07 million viewers tuned in for the Sunday night finale. The first installment picked up 4.01 million viewers on Friday night, while the middle section drew 3.68 million.

TBS finished third among the three major demos, posting its largest delivery with the 18-49 crowd (911,000).

Disney Channel last week finished third among all basic-cable nets, as the non-ad-supported net averaged 2.33 million total viewers.

Nielsen ratings were delayed this week as a server bug caused a data collection snafu.