USA Network notched its third straight quarter ratings win of 2009, riding the strength of a quartet of top ranked original scripted series to top all basic cable networks during the third quarter.
The "characters welcome" network averaged a 2.6 household rating, up 18% from the 2.2 it generated during the same period last year, according to a Disney-ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen ratings during the period of June 29 to Sept.27.
USA was paced by strong performances from new episodes of veteran series such as Psych, Monk and Burn Notice -- the latter of which averaged 8.1 million viewers, second only to TNT's The Closer -- as well as cable's most- watched new original series, Royal Pains.
Disney Channel, on the strength of a 11.4 million viewer performance by its Aug. 29 Wizards Of Waverly Place The Movie finished second for the quarter with a 2.1 rating average, up 11% over 1.9 rating in the third quarter of 2008.
Tied for third place with a 1.8 rating were TNT (down 5%), ESPN and Fox News (both flat.)
Nick At Nite's September launch of comedy series Everybody Hates Chris helped the network finish the quarter with a 1.4 rating, which was up 8% from 2008, while TBS settled in seventh place with a 1.2, down 8% from the previous year.
Finishing eighth and tied with a 1.1 rating were A&E (flat) and HGTV (up 10%). Lifetime (down 23%), ABC Family, FX and SyFy (all flat), and History (up 11%), rounded out the top, each with a 1.0 mark.
USA wasn't the only network maintaining a ratings winning streak during third quarter. Nickelodeon was the most- watched cable network on a 24-hour basis for a mind-boggling 56th consecutive quarter, averaging a flat 1.7 rating.
Disney Channel upped its total-day ratings by 15% during the quarter to a 1.5 to finish second, while Nickelodeon sister service Nick At Nite finished third with a flat 1.3 rating. USA (1.2 rating, up 9%) finished fourth, ahead of TNT (down 9%) and Fox News (flat), both with a 1 average.
Several networks set third-quarter ratings records, including Food Network, which posted a 29% increase to a 0.9 rating on the strength of its Next Food Network Star. That series averaged a network record 4.5 million viewers during its summer run.
Other networks posting significant ratings increases during the quarter: TLC (0.9, up 29%); Noggin (0.7, up 40%); VH1 (0.6, up 20%); E! and National Geographic (0.5, up 25%); GSN and WE (0.4, up 33%); BBC America (0.2, up 100%) and Disney XD and History International (0.2, up 50%).
Cable networks that lost Nielsen ground during the quarter included CNN (0.8, down 27%); Spike TV (0.7, 22%); Animal Planet and Headline News (0.4, 20%); and The Weather Channel (0.2, 33%).
ESPN's Monday Night Football telecasts dominated the top spots among the most-watched shows list for the quarter, taking three of the top five slots. The sports network's Sept. 21 Indianapolis Colts-Miami Dolphins telecast drew 14.7 million viewers, the most in cable during 2009 to date, topped only by the 15.7 million viewers garnered by the Sep. 28 Dallas Cowboys-Carolina Panthers contest.
The Sept. 14 Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots (14 million) and the Sept. 14 San Diego Chargers-Oakland Raiders (11.9 million) tackled the second and fourth place slots respectively.
Disney Channel covered the third and fifth place spots with its Aug. 28 Wizards Of Waverly Place The Movie (13.4 million) and its July 17 Wizards On Deck with Hannah Montana special (10.6 million) respectively.