USA Nabs Q2 Ratings Crown for First Time in Seven Years

By Anthony Crupi – 7/3/07

For the first time in seven years, USA Network has won the second quarter prime-time ratings race, besting mainstay TNT with its delivery of total viewers and the three core demos.

The NBC Universal network enjoyed its best second quarter ever, delivering 2.57 million viewers in prime time, according to Nielsen Media Research data. USA also upped its adults 18-49 audience by 3 percent versus the year-ago period, averaging 1.19 million members of the demo, while notching a 1 percent uptick among adults 25-54 (1.17 million).

USA completed the sweep with its delivery of adults 18-34, raising its average 3 percent to 560,000, thanks in large part to its Monday night WWE Raw showcase, which was the top-rated program on cable in the demo (2.61 million).

The ratings data incorporates Nielsen’s Live-plus-seven-day DVR playback numbers from April 2 through June 17, while the last two weeks of the quarter were measured on a Live-plus-same-day basis.

TNT finished the quarter in second place among total viewers and all three demos, averaging 2.4 million viewers, 1.15 million adults 18-49 (down 5 percent versus the same time a year ago), 1.15 million adults 25-54 (off 9 percent) and 532,000 18-34s (down 1 percent).

The Turner net delivered the top four programs on ad-supported cable, including another record-smashing performance by its original drama series The Closer, which opened its third season on June 18 to 8.81 million viewers, 3.8 million of which were in the 25-54 demo.

TNT laid claim to five of the quarter’s top 10 programs among adults 25-54 and presented three of the top 10 most-watched shows among the 18-49 set.

Sibling net TBS executed a bronze sweep, averaging 1.57 million viewers, 852,000 adults 18-49, 786,000 adults 25-54 and 436,000 18-34s. All three demo averages represented a 6 percent decline versus the second quarter of 2006.

TBS’ single most-watched program of the period was the second installment of the debut hour of House of Payne, which served up 5.87 million viewers June 6 at 9:30 p.m., good for tenth place. That episode also ranked fifth among adults 25-54 (3.03 million) and ninth among adults 18-49 (3.09 million).

The U.K. terror scale, the preliminary presidential primary debates and the perils of Paris helped catapult Fox News Channel into fourth place in prime, averaging 1.48 million viewers, a 7 percent increase over the network’s year-ago numbers. Perhaps more significantly, FNC grew its core 25-54 demo by 20 percent in the quarter, with an average delivery of 352,000.

Lifetime charged into fifth place on the strength of its new original drama series, Army Wives, which helped grow the network’s demo numbers. In the quarter, Lifetime was up 17 percent among women 18-34, and notched third place among women 25-54 (459,000).

Through its first five episodes, Army Wives has averaged 3.7 million viewers and delivered 1.4 million women in both the 18-49 and 25-54 ranges.

Rounding out the top 10 were: ESPN (down 12 percent to 1.42 million viewers); Cartoon Network (off 14 percent to 1.36 million); Discovery Channel (up 15 percent to 1.34 million); Nick at Nite (down 16 percent to 1.29 million) and A&E, which soared a whopping 35 percent in prime, averaging just under 1.29 viewers.

In the blanket 18-49 demo, Discovery jumped 12 percent to fourth place with 730,000, while FX dipped 1 percent, taking fifth place with 695,000. ESPN dropped 7 percent to 678,000, while seventh place Spike TV fell 10 percent to 631,000. Comedy Central was off 4 percent in the demo (599,000), edging out A&E, which took ninth after raising its delivery by 20 percent (596,000). Tenth among adults 18-49 was claimed by Sci Fi Channel, up 25 percent to 582,000.

Meanwhile, the ad-free Disney Channel finished third among the entire ad-supported cable universe, averaging 2.36 million viewers, while sweeping its core demos, including kids 6-11 (1.04 million viewers) and ‘tweens 9-14 (917,000). The Mouse boasted cable’s second most-watched program of the quarter with an all-new episode of Hannah Montana, which averaged 7.38 million viewers on June 24 at 8:30 p.m.

Among the top-30 ad-supported cable nets, the biggest gainers in overall prime-time delivery were: Court TV (up 32 percent to 1.11 million total viewers); VH1 (up 27 percent to 765,000); Bravo (up 24 percent to 554,000); Sci Fi (up 22 percent to 1.2 million), TLC (up 17 percent to 932,000) and BET (up 14 percent versus a year ago with 686,000 viewers).

Cable saw its biggest turnarounds among the 18-49 demo with: VH1, which grew the demo 20 percent, averaging 470,000; E! (up 17 percent, with 308,000); TLC (up 16 percent to 511,000); Court TV (also up 16 percent to 420,000); BET (up 14 percent to 358,000) and Food Network (up 10 percent to 349,000).

For the most part, cable managed to avoid many serious ratings declines in the second quarter. Of the ad-supported nets ranked in the top 11 to 30 spots, only four saw double-digit declines among total viewers: MTV (down 15 percent to 837,000); TV Land (down 11 percent to 816,000); AMC (also down 11 percent to 927,000) and Comedy Central, which fell 10 percent in the period to 982,000 viewers.