USA, ESPN share cable spoils

Sports net topped core demos with 1.5 mil average

While USA Network last week returned to its customary perch atop the cable ratings heap, averaging 3.5 million viewers in prime, the NBC Universal network couldn't hold off ESPN in the core demos.

For the week ending Nov. 1, ESPN retained its hold on adults 25-54 (1.6 million), viewers 18-49 (1.5 million) and viewers 18-34 (717,000), as pro and college football helped stave off USA's strong original-series numbers.

The sports network might have been hampered by a mediocre "Monday Night Football" draw in the Oct. 26 Eagles-Redskins matchup. Philadelphia's Eagles dispatched a crumbling Washington team 27-17 in an NFC East contest that featured just seven points scored in the second half.

Drawing 12.8 million viewers, the Eagles-'Skins game ranks as the second-lowest-rated "MNF" telecast of the year, trailing only the second game of the season-opening doubleheader, a Chargers-Raiders pairing that drew 11.9 million viewers Sept. 14.
That said, "MNF" still accounted for the week's biggest demo deliveries, serving up 6.9 million viewers 18-49 and 6.8 million adults 25-54.

USA's roster of original dramas, acquisitions and "WWE Raw" helped secure second place among the demos. The network averaged 1.5 million adults 25-54, 1.3 million viewers 18-49 and 571,000 18-34s, per Nielsen Live+Same Day ratings data.

The second installment of USA's "White Collar" drew 5.1 million viewers Friday night, retaining about 94% of its premiere delivery (5.4 million). The sophomore episode secured its best demo delivery with adults 25-54, averaging 1.82 million in its 10 p.m. time slot.

USA posted its biggest numbers with the Oct. 26 "WWE Raw," which averaged 5.6 million viewers Monday night from 9-11:10 p.m. USA also drew a crowd with "Raw" lead-in "NCIS" (4.8 million) and ""White Collar" precursor "Monk" (4.7 million).

Third place on the week went to Fox News, which delivered 2.1 million total viewers, of which 538,000 were members of the 25-54 demo.

The return of NBA action lifted TNT to fourth place, as the Celtics and Cavaliers tipped off in front of a national TV audience of 4 million viewers. Tuesday night's hoops doubleheader closed out with a late (10:23 p.m.-1:03 a.m. ET) Clippers-Lakers tilt that drew 3.4 million viewers.

TNT averaged 2.1 million viewers on the week, trailing Fox News by some 3,000 total viewers. The Turner net took third place across the board in the demos, averaging 1 million adults 25-54, 1 million 18-49s and 510,000 viewers 18-34.

Rounding out the top five was Nick at Nite with an average nightly draw of 1.7 million viewers.

Last week's top 10 ad-supported cable nets among the core TV demo were ESPN, averaging 1.5 million viewers 18-49; USA (1.3 million); TNT (1 million); TBS (861,000); Syfy (816,000); FX (763,000); Food Network (652,000); TLC (648,000); Spike TV (643,000) and BET (631,000).

Non-ad-supported Disney Channel held on to third place among all basic-cable nets, averaging 2.4 million viewers. The Mouse again wrapped up the youth demos, drawing 994,000 kids 6-11, 1.3 million viewers 6-14 and 835,000 tweens 9-14.

Disney Channel secured its largest audience of the week on Friday night, as a new episode of "Wizards of Waverly Place" scared up 4.5 million viewers on the night before Halloween. Meanwhile, "Sonny With a Chance" drew 4.1 million viewers at 8 p.m. Sunday night.