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USA Tops 3Q Cable Ratings

10/01/2008 12:14 PM Eastern

The third time’s a charm for USA Network as it captured the third quarter 2008 primetime ratings race, according to Nielsen Media Research figures.

USA, on the ratings strength of five original series—Monk, Psych, In Plain Sight,Burn Notice and WWE Monday Night Raw—averaged a 2.2 household rating for the quarter (June 30 to Sept. 28), an increase of 5% over a similar period in 2007.

Disney Channel, last year’s third quarter champion, finished in a second place tie with TNT with a 1.9 rating. Disney’s performance was down a whopping 27% from last year’s 2.5 rating, which was boosted by the 17.2 million viewers drawn by Disney’s August 2007 original movie High School Musical 2. TNT fell 5% from a 2.0 rating during second quarter 2007.

ESPN’s first four September Monday Night Football telecasts of the football season—all tops among the most-watched shows for the quarter—helped the sports network finish in a fourth place tie with Fox News, an increase of 6% from last year’s 1.7 average rating. Fox’s airing of the Republican National Convention boosted the network’s quarter ratings by 50% over the third quarter of 2007, according to Nielsen.

Tied for sixth place with a 1.3 rating was Lifetime, TBS (both flat) and Nick at Nite (up 30%); while Cartoon Network, Hallmark Channel (both flat) and CNN (up 57%) rounded out the top 10—tied with a 1.1 rating.

Along with Fox and CNN, news outlets MSNBC and Headline News also benefited from coverage of the presidential race. MSNBC posted a 60% primetime ratings increase for the quarter (0.8 versus 0.5), while Headline News garnered a 25% increase with a 0.5 rating. CNBC was flat in prime time, posting a 0.2 rating.

Other primetime gainers for the quarter include ABC Family (1.0, up 11%); Bravo (0.7, 17%); Oxygen (0.5, 67%); GSN, Investigation Discovery, Speed and the Weather Channel (0.3 up 50%).

On a 24-hour basis, Nickelodeon continued its 14-year streak by averaging a 1.7 rating, although it was down 6% from second quarter 2008. Disney Channel was second with a 1.3 rating, down 19% from a 1.6. Nick sister service Nick At Nite (1.3 rating), TNT and USA Network (tied with a 1.1) rounded out the top five.

September