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