Record-setting sports events and late-breaking entertainment stories highlighted a strong second-quarter ratings performance for cable.
While TNT and ESPN's NBA playoff coverage dominated the first half of the quarter, it was shows focusing on breaking entertainment-based events that drew the most viewers during the period of March 30 to June 28, according to a Disney/ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research.
The June 29 BET Awards '09 show, which featured a tribute to pop star Michael Jackson who unexpectedly died June 25, topped the ratings charts for the quarter, drawing 10.65 million viewers.
The controversy surrounding the marriage of reality TV parents Jon and Kate Gosselin proved to be ratings gold for TLC. The network's June 22 Jon & Kate Plus 8 episode -- which the couple announced their split from each other --drew 10.60 million for second place.
The show's May 25 fifth-season premiere finished third with 9.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
Three telecasts from TNT's record-setting coverage of the Orlando Magic-Cleveland Cavaliers Eastern Conference Finals series and three telecasts from ESPN's Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Nuggets NBA Western Conference finals dunked six of the top 10 slots among the most-watched shows of the quarter.
Overall, USA Network finished the quarter as the most-watched cable network, averaging a 2.4 household rating, up 14% over last year's 2.1 rating, according to Nielsen. USA easily outdistanced TNT, which finished with a 2.0 average, up 5%.
Disney Channel was third, flat at a 1.8 rating, while Fox News Channel was fourth with a 1.7%, registering a 31% gain from second-quarter 2008.
Nick-At-Nite, which will move its primetime start time to 8 p.m. from 9 p.m. this week (July 5), averaged a 1.3 rating, which was down 7% from second quarter 2008 to finish in fifth place for the month.
Networks posting double-digit gains for the quarter include TLC (0.9, up 29%); Discovery Channel (1.1, 22%); FX (1.0, up 11%); BET (0.7, up 40%); Food Network (0.8, up 14%); Noggin (0.7, up 40%); Bravo (0.7, up 17%); and CMT (0.4, up 33%).
Networks suffering noticeable declines include Lifetime (0.9, 25%), Spike TV (0.8, 27%); MTV (0.6, 25%) and Bio Channel (0.2, 33%).
Disney Channel's June 26 airing of its original movie Princess Protection Program was the most-watched scripted show of the quarter, garnering 8.5 million viewers.
On the cable news front, Fox News, en route to what could be its most-watched year since 2003, pulled away from the competition, averaging a 1.7 rating, easily besting second-place CNN, which averaged a 0.7 in primetime. MSNBC was third with a 0.7 rating, while Headline News (0.5) and CNBC (0.2) rounded out the list.