USA Starts Year Off Strong


USA Network, continuing its momentum from late last year, rang in 2006 with a ratings flourish, recording its best January primetime performance in six years.

Bolstered by its WWE Monday Night Raw franchise and fresh installments of quirky detective series Monk, the characters network was basic cable’s highest-rated and most-watched service in January (Dec. 26 through Jan. 29), averaging a 2.3 household mark and 2.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data. USA also set the basic-cable pace among three major demographic groups: adults 18 to 34 (600,000), 18 to 49 (1.3 million) and 25 to 54 (1.3 million).

Network officials also noted that it was USA’s most-watched January for total viewers and against the trio of demos mentioned above since 2000.

On a household-ratings basis, USA was up 15% from January 2005, topping Disney Channel’s 2.2 mark, which represented a 29% gain from a 1.7 the prior year. Disney’s fortunes were elevated by the Jan. 20 to 22 weekend burst of original telefilm High School Musical and subsequent encores. The Jan. 20 bow earned a 5.7 household rating, the month’s third best.

Turner Network Television, down 9% from a 2.2, was third with a 2.0 average, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen data.

ESPN, which benefitted from its last run of football until next season, was fourth, up 6% to a 1.7 as it tackled five of the top six shows for the month, with a pair of National Football League contests and trio of college bowl games.

TBS, flat versus the comparable period, and Nick at Nite, down 12%, were next, both at a 1.5. Lifetime Television was seventh, despite a 29% drop to a 1.4. Cartoon Network and Fox News Channel followed, both at 1.3, as the former sustained a 19% decline and the latter took a 7% hit.

There was a logjam at No. 10 for the month among FX (ahead 22%), Hallmark Channel (up 10%), The History Channel (even) and Spike TV (off 8%), all with a 1.1 average.