TNT is just jumpin'

NBA playoffs put net second to USA for week

USA Network held off a charge by TNT to keep its ratings streak alive, averaging 3.2 million total viewers for the week ending April 26 to top the Turner network by a margin of only 254,000.

TNT averaged 2.9 million viewers, returning to the No. 2 spot for the first time in 10 weeks. More important, TNT swept the three major demographics, averaging 1.6 million viewers 18-49, 1.5 million adults 25-54 and 821,000 18-34s.

The net's coverage of the opening round of the NBA playoffs gave it a huge lift as five games were among the 50 most-watched shows on ad-supported cable last week. TNT drew 3.8 million viewers Thursday with Game 3 of the Lakers-Jazz series, and Game 2 of the Celtics-Bulls showdown April 20 also delivered 3.8 million.

On April 21, LeBron James led the Cavaliers to a two-game lead over the Pistons in front of a national audience of 3.7 million viewers.

TNT's basketball coverage helped knock Fox News Channel into third place, the first time the news network has fallen out of second since the week ending Feb. 22, Nielsen said. Fox News closed out the week with an average delivery of 2.3 million viewers, 547,000 of which were in the core 25-54 demo.

A five-hour NFL draft marathon and the finale of the season's first Yankees-Red Sox series gave ESPN fourth place as the sports net averaged 1.8 million viewers. NFL analyst Mel Kiper Jr. and company delivered a captive audience of 5.1 million football fans from 4-9 p.m. Saturday, of which 3 million were viewers 18-49 and 2.8 million were adults 25-54.

The next night saw the Red Sox sweep the visiting Yankees in front of a national audience of 4.6 million. ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast delivered 2.2 million 18-49s and the same number of 25-54s.

Although USA dropped to second place among the older demos, averaging 1.4 million 25-54s and 1.3 million 18-49s, the network boasted three of the week's most-watched programs on ad-supported cable. "WWE Raw" averaged 5.3 million viewers April 20, and a repeat of "NCIS" served up 4.3 million viewers at 7 p.m.

A new installment of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" drew 4.1 million viewers Sunday in Jeff Goldblum's debut episode.

USA won its fourth consecutive month, up 11% year-over-year.

Anthony Crupi is senior editor at Mediaweek.