TNT Is Primetime’s 3Q Champ

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The ratings book closed on the third quarter Sunday night with the top three players in basic cable racking up double-digit primetime advances.

Turner Network Television led the way, posting a 10% increase to a 2.3 primetime average from June 27-Sept. 25, from a 2.1 in the year-before period, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Fox News Channel, buoyed by its coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its devastating aftermath, was tied for second with Disney Channel, both with 2.0 marks. Disney notched an 11% increase from a 1.8 in the third quarter of 2004, while Fox News recorded a 25% improvement. In the process, the all-news category leader saw its quarterly viewership grow to a best-ever 2.27 million average

USA Network, despite a 10% drop, was fourth with a 1.8, ahead of Nick at Nite’s 1.7, up 6%. Lifetime Television placed sixth, even with a 1.6 mark.

Rounding out the primetime leaders: ESPN and Cartoon Network, despite a 13% drop apiece, were knotted in seventh with 1.4 averages; and Spike TV (up 30%) and TBS (flat) were next, both with 1.3 marks.

Finishing just outside of the top 10 were MTV: Music Television (up 10%), Sci Fi Channel (even), Hallmark Channel (ahead 22%) and regional network Turner South (off 8%), all of which closed with 1.1 primetime averages in the third quarter.

Gauged on a-total-programming day basis, Nick, per usual, ranked first, even though it sustained a 5% loss to a 1.8 average. Sister network and channel sharer NAN was second, up 15% to a 1.5. From there, five networks shared the third spot with 1.2 marks: TNT (flat), Disney (up 9%), Cartoon (down 8%); Cartoon’s late-night Adult Swim spinoff (not applicable) and Fox News (up 33%).

ESPN claimed the top-three-rated shows -- all National Football League games -- in the quarter, topped by the 9.1 household average tackled by its coverage of the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens Sept. 11.

TNT original series The Closer copped six places in the top 30, while the drama network’s presentations of National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing action dropped the flag on five top-30 finishes. Fox News had six of the quarter’s highest-rated programs, according to the Disney ABC Cable analysis.