Taking seven out of the top 12 shows, USA Network easily captured cable's primetime ratings last week.
The “characters” network rode the strength of five original series entries, plus its Monday World Wrestling Entertainment franchise, to average a 2.3 household rating from July 14 through July 20, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. USA averaged 2.98 million viewers.
Disney Channel was second for the week with a 1.9 household rating and 2.42 million viewers, while TNT, bolstered by the fourth and second season returns of The Closer and Saving Grace on July 14, was third with a 1.8 and 2.28 million watchers.
July 14 was also a big night for ESPN, whose coverage of the 2008 State Farm Home Run Derby from Yankee Stadium was the top show in cable so far this year, averaging 9.12 million total viewers over its 161-minute run. The total sports network was fourth for the week with a 1.6 rating and 2.08 million watchers.
Nick at Nite (1.4 and 1.81 million) and Fox News Channel (1.4 and 1.57 million) were tied for fifth, just ahead of TBS (1.3 and 1.69 million). Lifetime was next with a 1.2 average, which translated into 1.37 million viewers.
There was a logjam at the bottom of the top 10, as four networks all posted a 1.1 average for the week: A&E (1.42 million), FX (1.41 million), Hallmark (1.28 million) and HGTV (1.28 million).
On the demo front, USA also claimed the top spot among adults 18 to 49 with 1.27 million of those watchers and the 25-to-54 set with 1.38 million.
Following the Derby in which Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton set a first-round record by driving 28 homers into the Bronx night (a 19-minute Derby preview was third with 6.03 million watchers) was the fourth-season premiere of Kyra Sedgwick-starrer The Closer, which drew 7.81 million viewers at 9 p.m. on July 14. Lead-out Saving Grace came in sixth with 5.16 million.
The two-hour Nickelodeon special on July 19, Avatar: The Last Airbender, was sixth with 5.59 million viewers and ranked first for the week among kids 6 to 11 and tweens 9 to 14.
The rest of the top shows were from USA. The seventh season premiere of Monk was fourth for the week with 5.64 million watchers in its 9 p.m. timeslot on July 18. Friday night stablemate, Psych, delivered 4.89 million viewers in its fourth-season premiere in the lead-out spot, finishing seventh for the week.
Jeffrey Donovan’s Burn Notice was eighth, capturing 4.87 million in its Thursday night (July 17) 10 p.m. slot, ahead of Law & Order Criminal Intent, which notched 4.83 million viewers on July 20 at 9 p.m. That topped the 4.68 million watchers for Mary McCormack-starrer, In Plain Sight (July 20 at 10 p.m.), which ranked 12th for the week.
In between: WWE Monday Night Raw, with the 10 p.m. hour 10th for the period at 4.79 million and the preceding hour 11th with 4.72 million.