TNT, USA Blaze in Cable’s Scorching Summer

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USA Network and Turner Network Television are sharing a gold medal in the primetime-ratings competition this summer. And basic cable scored an Olympian triumph over broadcast.

USA, boosted by strong series like The 4400 and Monk, and TNT were both No. 1 in primetime this summer, each scoring a 2.1 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research data provided by ABC Cable Networks Group. USA was up a sizable 31% in household ratings versus last summer, when it only registered a 1.6. TNT was flat compared with last summer.

And even with the Olympics airing in primetime on NBC — and after trumpeting all of its new hot-weather programming — broadcast got trounced this summer.

Cable garnered an all-time high 57.0 household share in primetime, up 4% versus last summer, while the seven broadcast networks posted an all-time low 36.3 share, down 2%.

Among individual cable networks, in the summer primetime-ratings derby Disney Channel ranked No. 3 in primetime with a 1.9 rating, the same as last summer. There was then a three-way tie between Lifetime Television, Cartoon Network and Nick at Nite. All three racked up a 1.6 rating in primetime.

That number represents an 11% drop for Lifetime compared with a year ago, while Cartoon was flat. Numbers for Nick at Nite weren’t broken out separately last summer, so there isn’t any data to make a year-to-year comparison.

TBS scored a 1.5 primetime rating this summer, up 7% from last summer’s 1.4. Next came Fox News Channel, which posted a 1.4 rating, up 8% from last summer’s 1.3. ESPN and Turner South both had a 1.2 primetime rating this summer, followed by FX and Sci Fi Channel, which each had a 1.1.

TBS and TNT performed well this summer in key demographics. For example, TBS saw double-digit growth in primetime compared with last summer with adults 18-to-34, 18-to-49 and 25-to-54, with the addition of Sex and the City and the reality series Outback Jack. In addition, TBS was No. 1 in primetime for adults 18 to 34, the network’s best summer performance ever in that demographic.

TNT ranked as the No. 1 network among adults 18 to 49 and adults 25 to 54 for the fourth consecutive summer.

This summer’s Nielsen ratings cover May 31 to Aug. 29, versus May 26 to Aug. 31 last year.

For the total programming day this summer, Nickelodeon was No. 1 with a 1.9 rating, according to Nielsen. Nick was up 12% from last summer’s 1.7. Nick at Nite and Cartoon Network tied for second place for the day, each with a 1.3.