Summer television gets cable boost

Popular shows included 'Royal Pains,' 'Warehouse 13'

Although you wouldn't know it from following broadcast network ratings, summer TV viewing is at an all-time high.

According to a Turner research report, the average person watched 32.2 hours of TV per week this summer. In 2004, the average number of TV hours viewed during the summer was 29.8.

The gains were driven by cable TV programming, which continues to erode the traditional advantage of the Big Four networks.

Among new series on ad-supported cable, the most-watched programs were USA's "Royal Pains" (averaging 7.2 million viewers), Syfy's "Warehouse 13" (4 million), TNT's "Hawthorne" (3.9 million), TNT's "Dark Blue" (3.4 million) and Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva" (3 million).

The most-watched returning shows were TNT's "The Closer" (7.9 million) and four on USA: "Burn Notice" (7.7 million), "Monk" (5.6 million), "In Plain Sight" (5.1 million) and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (4.6 million).

Turner research head Jack Wakshlag said cable networks programming more original content than ever combined with the digital transition helped boost the number.

"This is an unusual summer because what you have here is the full brunt of the digital transition," he said.

Among major cable networks, some of the biggest ratings gainers compared to last year were TLC (52%), Fox News (37%), Food Network (33%), BET (34%), USA (19%), HLN (18%) E! (18%) and MSNBC (16%). Some of the steepest declines were posted by TV Land (25%), Hallmark (24%), Spike TV (21%), Lifetime (21%) and Cartoon Network (19%).