USA Breezes to Another Cable Ratings Crown

USA Network last week blazed through yet another summer ratings battle, averaging 3.46 million total viewers in prime time, while taking the two core TV demos.

For the week ended August 16, USA drew 1.52 million adults 25-54 and 1.29 million viewers 18-49, while serving up six of the top 10 most-watched programs on ad-supported cable.

With Burn Notice on hiatus until winter 2010, USA’s Thursday night drama Royal Pains had to forge ahead without its powerful lead-in, drawing 5.56 million viewers in the 10 p.m. time slot, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data. While the latest installment of Pains boasted the third largest audience on cable, the delivery was down 17 percent versus a week ago, when it drew 6.69 million viewers following Burn Notice’s mid-season finale. (The August 6 cliffhanger averaged 7.59 million viewers, a record high for Burn Notice.)

Also delivering for USA were: WWE Raw, which scared up 5.5 million viewers Monday night between 9 p.m. and 11:07 p.m.; a new episode of Monk, which drew 5.31 million viewers Friday night at 9 p.m.; a repeat of NCIS, which drew 4.22 million viewers Monday night at 8 p.m.; and a new Psych, which lead out of Monk with 4.2 million viewers.

Fox News Channel surged into second place on the week, drawing 2.45 million total viewers, 678,000 of which were members of the core news demo. FNC’s showing among adults 25-54 represented an 18 percent improvement over the prior week’s delivery.

Interestingly enough, FNC’s best draw of the week was the Monday night installment of The O’Reilly Factor, which kicked off with a segment about…Fox News Channel’s ratings prowess. Host Bill O’Reilly’s August 10 deconstruction of FNC’s drawing power––he chalked it up to the network’s coverage of the national health-care debate––was seen by 3.81 million viewers.

Dropping a notch to third place on the week was TNT, which averaged 2.34 million viewers in prime. The Turner net took second place among adults 25-54 with 1.07 million, while finishing third among the 18-49 crowd with 893,000.

TNT drew the largest standalone audience of the week on Monday, August 10, as a new episode of The Closer averaged 6.95 million viewers in the 9 p.m. slot. The network continued to enjoy a solid turnout courtesy of its first-year hospital strip Hawthorne, which averaged 3.35 million viewers Tuesday at 9 p.m., although sophomore drama Leverage wobbled a bit, drawing 3.16 million viewers Wednesday night at 9 p.m., a drop of 14 percent versus the prior-week’s average (3.69 million).

Nick at Nite remained in fourth place, averaging 2.07 million viewers, of which 670,000 were viewers 18-49. Nick at Nite finished first among all ad-supported cable networks with the core kids’ demos, notching its best number of the week with 821,000 viewers 6-14.

ESPN closed out the week in fifth, drawing a nightly crowd of 1.73 million viewers, edging TBS by a margin of around 17,000 viewers. The sports net drew the second-largest audience on cable last week, as 5.62 million Nascar fans tuned in for its live coverage of Sunday afternoon’s Carfax 400 Sprint Cup race from Michigan International Speedway.

On Thursday night, a preseason rematch of Super Bowl XLIII drew 4.76 million football fans, making the essentially meaningless exhibition the sixth most-watched program on cable last week. The defending NFL champion Pittsburgh Steelers topped the Arizona Cardinals 20-10, in a scrimmage that delivered the week’s greatest concentration of viewers 18-49 (2.68 million) and 18-34 (1.39 million).

Tops among the core TV demo last week were: USA, which drew 1.29 million viewers 18-49; TBS (1.04 million); TNT (893,000); ESPN (808,000); A&E (690,000); Nick at Nite (670,000); Food Network (619,000); FX (611,000); TLC (601,000) and ABC FAmily (588,000).