USA Network continued its basic-cable ratings domination, garnering the most viewers during a third-quarter 2011 period which saw a year-to-year increase in overall television viewing.
Despite a myriad of entertainment choices available, consumers watched an average of 33 hours of TV in the period of June 27 to Sept. 25, up from 32.8 hours in 2010 and 31.3 hours in 2006, according to a Turner Broadcasting System analysis of Nielsen data.
Most of what was watched was cable programming. Viewers took in 17.1 hours of ad-supported cable during the quarter, compared to only 6.6 hours for broadcast networks, according to Turner. Overall, cable averaged a record 73% share of the primetime viewing audience during the quarter, while the broadcasters sunk to an all-time low of 27%, according to Turner.
USA programming accounted for the lion’s share of cable’s viewing, averaging 3.5 million viewers to capture its 21st consecutive primetime quarterly ratings win among entertainment based networks, according to Nielsen. USA was also tops among adults 18-49 and adults 25-54, due mostly to its lineup of original series such as Royal Pains, Covert Affairs and Burn Notice, as well as new series Necessary Roughness and Suits.
USA outlasted Disney Channel, which fi nished second in the race with 2.6 million viewers, down 5% from thirdquarter 2010, and TNT, which declined by 2% to draw 2.5 million viewers.
History posted a 19% year-to-year increase for the quarter to fi nish fourth, with 2.0 million viewers, while ESPN garnered 1.9 million viewers — down 12% from last year — to fi nish fi fth, according to Nielsen.
Fox News Channel (1.9 million viewers, up 4%); A&E Network (1.6 million, up 8%); FX (1.4 million, up 14%); Syfy (1.2 million, up 12%) and ABC Family (1.4 million, up 4%) rounded out the top 10.
On a 24-hour basis, Nickelodeon made it 66 straight quarterly ratings wins in a row, averaging 2.1 million viewers, although that was down 5% from third-quarter 2010. Following Nickelodeon was Disney Channel (1.8 million, down 4%); USA (1.4 million, up 5%); Adult Swim (1.3 million, up 16%); and Nick at Nite (1.2 million, down 22%), said Nielsen.
Several cable networks posted strong third-quarter performances, including Headline News, which rode its coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial to a 67% year to year ratings increase, averaging 674,000 viewers in primetime.
Other networks generating viewership gains of 30% or more included Style (248,000, up 65%); Investigation Discovery (547,000, up 53%); Galavisión (219,000, up 43%); Hallmark Movie Channel (189,000, up 41%); VH1 (623,000, up 39%); Weather Channel (242,000, up 36%); CNN (513,000, up 32%) and MLB Network (679,000, up 32%).
Among the networks that struggled during the quarter were Nick at Nite (1.2 million, down 27%); Teen- Nick (201,000, down 22%); TBS (1.2 million, down 20%); Nicktoons (306,000, down 17%); TV One (188,000, down 16%); G4(133,000, down 16%); and Bravo (813,000, down 16%).