USA Rules Q2 Primetime Ratings Roost

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Hoops were big in the second quarter, but not tall enough to dislodge USA Network from the top of the Nielsen primetime heap.

The “characters” network finished the quarter, spanning March 31 through June 29, with a 2.1 household average in primetime, matching its mark from the year-earlier period, according to a Disney ABC Cable Network group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. USA pinned solid ratings from its WWE "Monday Night Raw" franchise, as well as a strong debut of new original series, In Plain Sight

TNT, which counted nine of the top 25 programs for the month with its coverage of the NBA playoffs, was second with a 1.9 average, down 5% from a 2.0 in second quarter 2007, when ratings rose with fresh episodes from The Closer, including 8.2 million for its third-season premiere. This year, new installments of The Closer and Saving Grace will bow July 14.

Disney Channel, despite airing the top show in the quarter, original telefilm Camp Rock which drew 8.9 million viewers on June 20, sustained a 10% drop in ratings to a 1.8 for the quarter.

Among the top 10, Nick at Nite notched the biggest gain, a 27% advance to a 1.4 from a 1.1, fashioned by the strength of sitcoms George Lopez and Home Improvement. Boosted by its own NBA playoff coverage, ESPN dunked a 17% rise to a 1.4 from a 1.2 the prior year. Five ESPN pro hoops telecast cracked the top 24 for the quarter.

Fox News and TBS, which were both even with last year, were next at a 1.3 average. The big news for Fox News, though, was that it regained the lead with the adults 25-to-54 demo in the period, after relinquishing the lead to CNN, which surged on its presidential primary coverage, in the first quarter. That marked the first time that CNN held that distinction with the news demo since 2001.

Lifetime finished eighth in the quarter with a 1.2, matching its average from second quarter 2008. Spike TV, up 10% and Hallmark, even, rounded out the top 10, both with 1.1 averages.

A&E (off 9%), Cartoon Network (down 17%), Discovery (even), SciFi (even) and HGTV (up 11%) all finished just outside the top 10, each with a 1.0 average in the second quarter.

USA also held the top spot in June with a 2.2 mark, although that was 4% less than June 2007’s 2.3 average. Disney was second with a 1.8, a 14% decrease from a 2.1. TNT was third with a 1.7, down 15% from a 2.0 the prior year.

NAN and ESPN, matching their growth rates and averages for the second-quarter overall, were the big gainers among the top 10. Lifetime, even with last June, joined them with a 1.4 average.

Fox News (even) and TBS (down 13%) were next, both with a 1.3. Hallmark, up 9%, was ninth with a 1.2 mark, while A&E and Cartoon, both even for the month, completed the top 10 with 1.1 averages.

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