USA Original Series Heat Up In July


With its five original series clicking, USA Network easily won cable’s primetime ratings race in July.

The “characters network,” bolstered by fresh episodes from returning series Burn Notice, Monk, Psych and Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and rookie skein, In Plain Sight, plus Monday night staple, WWE Raw, averaged a 2.3 household rating from June 30 through July 27. That was up 10% from the 2.1 average the network posted from July 2 through July 29, 2007, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. USA averaged 2.94 million viewers, a 12% increase from its 2.64 million tally last year.

TNT and Disney Channel were tied for second, despite viewer erosion, both with a 1.9 mark. The “drama” network -- with a later start to the new season of the medium’s top series, The Closer -- was down 10% from a 2.1 average in July 2007, as viewership slipped 5% to 2.44 million from 2.57 million.

Disney Channel’s drop was much steeper, as the kids and tweens-targeted service sustained a 21% decline from a 2.4 a year ago, when it aired a number of fresh Hannah Montana installments. Disney Channel’s viewer base dropped 17% to 2.5 million from 3.01 million. 

There was a sizable gap from the top three, with TBS, Nick at Nite and Fox News Channel, all grabbing a share of fourth place with a 1.3 average. Both TBS and Fox News registered 8% increases from their 1.2 averages in July 2007. Nick at Nite, riding the crest of George Lopez and Home Improvement, carved out the biggest gain among the top 10 networks in primetime: a 30% jump from last year’s 1.0 mark.

There was another logjam on the next rung, where Lifetime Television, ESPN and Hallmark Channel all notched 1.2 averages. However, each arrived in a different manner. Women’s-targeted Lifetime was off 8% from a 1.3, while the family-friendly Hallmark was up 9% from a 1.1. ESPN, benefiting from a strong showing from its coverage of the 2008 Home Run Derby on July 14 -- cable’s top show for the month and the year-to-date and its best results with the event since 1999 -- with 9.12 million viewers, grew 20% from a 1.0.

Cartoon Network (even) and HGTV (up 10%) rounded out the top 10, knotted at a 1.1.

On the outside looking in were A&E, ABC Family, FX and Sci Fi all of which finished with a 1.0 to match their 2007 levels.

Oxgen, buoyed by the Tori & Dean: Home Sweet Hollywood reality series, doubled its primetime ratings average in July to a 0.6.

On the down side: Discovery Channel off 18% to a 0.9; TLC down 20% to a 0.6; and MTV a 13% decline to a 0.7.

All told, 17 of the 69 networks gauged by the Disney ABC analysis registered household ratings gains during July, while 19 lost ground. The remaining 33 were even with their July 2007 marks.

July’s Top 10

Show                           Network          Date                 Viewers

Home Run Derby         ESPN              July 14             9.12 million

The Closer                   TNT                 July 14             7.81 million

The Closer                   TNT                 July 21             7.06 million

NASCAR Sprint Cup  ESPN              July 27             6.67 million

Burn Notice                  USA                July 10             6.57 million

Sprint Cup Daytona      TNT                 July 25             6.51 million

WWE Entertainment     USA                July 7               6.12 million

HR Derby (pre-event)   ESPN              July 14             6.03 million

Hannah/Miley Concert   Disney             July 26             5.86 million

In Plain Sight                USA                July 13             5.85 million

Source: Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data