NBA playoffs give TNT weekly ratings win

Cable network averages 3.3 million viewers in primetime

As the Earth heaves itself headlong into May, TNT last week made its annual leap into the cable catbird seat. Set aloft by its NBA playoffs coverage, the Turner network averaged 3.3 million total viewers in primetime, marking its first weekly ratings victory of 2010.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data for the week ended May 2, TNT swept the three key demos, averaging 1.73 million viewers ages 18-to-49, 1.67 million adults 25-54 and 896,000 viewers 18-34.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics drew 5.71 million viewers on May 1, of which 2.91 million were adults 25-54 and 2.87 million were members of the 18-49 demo. It was the most-watched program on cable last week.

TNT also got a boost from Game 5 of the opening-round tussle between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers. The defending champions blew out the visitors in a game that was watched by a national TV audience of 4.69 million viewers. The April 27 contest served up the week's biggest cache of viewers 18-49, averaging 2.92 million members of the core demo.

All told, the NBA on TNT accounted for three of the week's most-watched programs on ad-supported cable, including the Bulls-Cavs clincher. As the lead-in to the Thunder-Lakers blowout, the 96-94 squeaker drew 4.24 million viewers.

On the week, TNT's pro hoops coverage notched eight of the week's top 20 biggest deliveries among viewers 18-49.

USA dropped to second place on the week, averaging 3.13 million total viewers, including 1.25 million adults 25-54 and 1.15 million viewers 18-49. A three-hour installment of "WWE Raw" delivered 4.63 million viewers on Monday between 8-11:03 p.m., making it the week's fifth most-watched program on ad-supported cable. Subtract the additional hour of content, and the wrestling showcase delivered 4.99 million viewers from 9 p.m. on.

Also putting up solid numbers were USA's roster of "NCIS" repeats and a new episode of the original drama "In Plain Sight." The latter drew 3.27 million viewers in its Wednesday 10 p.m. slot.

Bolstered by a strong showing from "iCarly," Nick at Nite moved up two spaces to take third on the week, averaging 1.92 million viewers. The 30-minute "iCarly" drew 4.87 million viewers Saturday at 8 p.m., of which more than half (2.51 million) were kids 2-11. A lead-in episode of "iCarly" served up 3.93 million viewers at 7:30 p.m.

"Pawn Stars" helped History retain its spot at No. 4, as the series averaged 4.33 million viewer Sunday at 8:30 p.m. The unscripted series set the table for the second two-hour installment of "America: The History of Us," which drew 3.88 million viewers. The re-enactment special dropped 32% from its premiere delivery of 5.67 million viewers, and its target demo saw a proportionate decline (1.82 million adults 25-54, compared with last week's 2.68 million). Viewers 18-49 dropped off by 35% as History averaged 1.69 million members of the demo, down from the premiere week's delivery of 2.58 million.

Closing out the top five, Fox News Channel moved up a notch with an average nightly draw of 1.69 million viewers. Roughly a quarter (409,000) of FNC's deliveries were drawn from its core demo, adults 25-54.

While ESPN finished out of the money, it posted the week's third most-watched program on ad-supported cable -- the Thunder-Lakers series clincher on April 30 that attracted 4.83 million viewers.
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