ESPN's Power Sweep

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While seven of cable's top 10 networks suffered erosion, ESPN scored a major ratings gain during October behind the power of its Monday Night Football franchise.

MNF accounted for the top five shows during the month — notably the medium's best-ever numbers of a 12.8 rating, 16 million viewers and 11.8 million households for its Oct. 23 presentation of the National Football League contest between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. As a result, ESPN registered a 21% gain to a 2.9 cable primetime household rating average from Sept. 25-Oct. 29.

That gave the total sports network a half-point edge over sister service Disney Channel's 2.4 mark. That was even with Disney's October average last year, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Elsewhere, there was mostly downward motion among the medium's primetime top-10 performers.

Third-ranked USA Network was off 5% from a 2.1 in October 2005 to a 2.0. Sister services TNT and Cartoon Network placed fourth and fifth, respectively, with a 1.7 (down 11% from a 1.9) and a 1.3 (a 13% decrease to a 1.5).

A trio of networks averaged a 1.2, with TBS off 8% from a 1.3, while both Nick at Nite and Fox News Channel declined 20% from a 1.5 in the corresponding month last year.

Hallmark Channel, ahead 10% from a 1.0, and Lifetime Television, which absorbed a 31% hit, completed the top 10, each with a 1.1 average.

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