TNT Rides NBA All-Star Weekend to Victory

TNT brought home its first prime-time ratings title of 2011, as the network’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Weekend powered it to a sweep of the key demos.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data, TNT closed out the week ended Feb. 20 with an average nightly draw of 3.25 million total viewers, of which 1.71 million were members of the 18-49 demo. The Turner net also beat all comers among adults 25-54 (1.52 million) and viewers 18-34 (1 million).

Midway through a record NBA season, the league’s annual East-West scrimmage delivered its biggest audience in nearly a decade, serving up 9.09 million viewers Sunday night between 8:46 p.m. and 11:41 p.m. EST. Deliveries for the All-Star Game represented a 33 percent improvement from last year’s draw of 6.85 million fans.

TNT also enjoyed significant gains in the core demos, averaging 5.23 million viewers 18-49 (up 38 percent from the 2010 All-Star Game), 4.31 million adults 25-54 (up 29 percent) and 3.58 million men 18-49 (an increase of 47 percent).

The big turnout for the actual game came on the heels of a banner evening for NBA All-Star Saturday Night, which averaged 8.13 million total viewers, of which 5.23 million were members of the 18-49 set. Presented by State Farm, the series of events topped TNT’s year-ago deliveries by 23 percent.

Second place on the week went to USA Network, which averaged 3.02 million viewers in prime, a haul that included 1.14 million adults 25-54 and 1.04 million 18-49s. USA’s biggest draw came courtesy of WWE Raw, followed by original drama series Royal Pains, repeats of NCIS and coverage of the Westminster Dog Show, which drew 3.52 million viewers on Feb. 15.

With just two episodes to go before the season two finale, Royal Pains on Thursday night put up its second lowest numbers ever, averaging 3.89 million viewers and 1.66 million adults 25-54. (The previous week saw Pains reach its smallest audience, drawing 3.86 million viewers/1.61 million 25-54s.) Lead-out Fairly Legal has had some slippage issues, drawing 3.22 million viewers/1.23 million adults 25-54 at 10 p.m. The demo dropped 15 percent from 1.45 million on Feb. 10 and is now off 23 percent from a series high 1.6 million for episode two.

Although it looked like a promising venue when Fairly Legal launched on Jan. 20, the Thursday 10 p.m. slot is now anything but. MTV’s Jersey Shore continues to strut its stuff as the 800-lb. gorilla juice head in the room, beating even TNT’s All-Star Game in the 18-49 and 18-34 demos (5.31 million and 4.16 million, respectively).

Shore has been such a goliath that it has helped lift the entire network. MTV closed out the week ranked sixth in prime time among viewers 18-49, averaging 823,000 viewers, while taking second place in the 18-34 demo (653,000). A year ago at this time, MTV was ranked No. 13 and No. 5 in the respective demos.

History, FX and AMC are also enjoying significant ratings momentum. History ended the week with an average prime-time delivery of 2.02 million total viewers, around 560,000 greater than its February 2010 average. The AETN channel has been a demo leader as well, drawing 974,000 viewers 18-49 a week ago, up 45 percent versus its Feb. ‘10 average, while landing 1.02 million adults 25-54 (up 35 percent).

Leading the way for History was its Monday night lineup of American Pickers (6.48 million viewers) and twin installments of Pawn Stars (6.16 million at 10 p.m. and 6.03 million at 10:30).

FX is also going great guns, up 37 percent to 1.68 million viewers, while boosting its demo delivery 28 percent from the year-ago period, with 860,000 viewers 18-49. For its part, AMC last week demonstrated a leap of 49 percent versus Feb. ‘10, averaging 1.53 million viewers in prime. Adults 25-54 last week grew 39 percent to 642,000.