USA, ESPN split cable ratings crown

USA wins total viewers; sports net grabs core demos again

NEW YORK -- USA Network last week won the overall cable ratings crown, averaging 3.2 million viewers in primetime, but for the second consecutive week, the general-entertainment channel couldn't top ESPN among the core demos.

For the week ended Nov. 8, ESPN retained its hold on adults 25-54 (1.46 million), viewers 18-49 (1.47 million) and viewers 18-34 (709,000), as "NFL Monday Night Football" helped fend off another USA challenge.

While ESPN once again walked away with the week's most-watched program on cable, averaging 12.4 million viewers with the Nov. 2 Saints-Falcons NFL matchup, "MNF" took a hit from the World Series. Game 5 of the Yankees-Phillies tilt drew 17.1 million viewers to Fox, according to Nielsen ratings data.

Faced with what would prove to be the most-watched World Series Game 5 since 2003, the Saints-Falcons game drew the second lowest-rated "MNF" telecast of the year. That said, "MNF" still accounted for the week's biggest demo deliveries, serving up 6.77 million viewers 18-49 and 6.63 million adults 25-54.

USA saw a profound drop in interest with its newest original drama, "White Collar," as its third episode drew 3.85 million viewers on Friday, Nov. 6, at 10 p.m. That delivery represents a decline of 24% from the prior-week average (5.08 million) and a 29% drop from the premiere episode, which drew 5.4 million viewers.

A week after drawing 1.63 million viewers 18-49, the third installment of "White Collar" failed to finish among the top 50 in the TV demo. Among adults 25-54, Friday's "Collar" drew 1.39 million viewers, a drop of 24% from the prior week's 1.82 million.

All told, USA was sustained by "WWE Raw," "Monk" and "NCIS" repeats. On the week, USA averaged 1.33 million adults 25-54, 1.2 million viewers 18-49 and 532,000 18-34s, the latter delivery tying FX for third place among ad-supported cable nets. (TBS took second with 592,000.)

Fox News Channel retained third place, serving up 2.56 million total viewers, while moving up to sixth place among the core news demo with an average nightly draw of 695,000 adults 25-54. FNC boasted its biggest delivery with Thursday night's "The O'Reilly Factor," which drew 4.96 million viewers in the wake of the Fort Hood killings.
TBS moved up to fourth place, drawing 1.77 million viewers, notching its best demo showing among viewers 18-49 (1.06 million).

Nick at Nite held onto fifth place (1.74 million viewers), thanks in large part to Friday night's doubleheader of "SpongeBob SquarePants" and new series "Fanboy & Chum Chum." The one-hour "SpongeBob" event ("Truth or Square") scared up 7.66 million viewers Nov. 6 at 8 p.m., while lead-out "Fanboy & Chum Chum" drew 5.78 million.
The "SpongeBob" special was also TV's most-watched program among kids 2-11 (4.4 million) and kids 6-11 (3 million).

The Nov. 6, debut of "Fanboy and Chum Chum" (9 p.m.) ranked as basic cable's No. 2 telecast for the night -- only behind "SpongeBob SquarePants'" "Truth or Square" -- and drew 5.8 million total viewers and 2.5 million kids 6-11. The CG-animated series' second episode -- which bowed on Saturday morning (Nov. 7 at 10:30 a.m.) -- grabbed 5.4 million total viewers, second only to "SpongeBob."

Last week's top 10 ad-supported cable nets among the core TV demo were: ESPN, averaging 1.47 million viewers 18-49; USA (1.2 million); TBS (1.06 million); FX (950,000); TNT (772,000); Comedy Central (684,000); TLC (651,000); A&E (612,000); Syfy (590,000); and Discovery Channel (566,000).

The list of individual programs that drew the largest concentration of viewers 18-49 was a weird stew of sports, drama and unscripted curiosities. "MNF" drew 6.78 million members of the core TV demo, good for first place on the week. Next up was FX's "Sons of Anarchy," which drew 2.32 million viewers 18-49, edging TLC's latest Gosselin spectacle, "Kate: Her Story." The one-hour interview/tell-all delivered 2.3 million viewers Monday at 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, USA's "WWE Raw" took fourth among the demo (2.29 million 18-49s), followed in short order by: ESPN's post-NFL "SportsCenter" (2.28 million); E!'s two-hour "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" wedding special (2.19 million); Comedy Central's "South Park" (1.99 million); Bravo's "The Real Housewives of the OC" (1.98 million) and Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter" (1.88 million).

Non-ad-supported Disney Channel slipped to a fourth-place finish among all basic-cable nets, averaging 2.5 million viewers. The network dominated the youth demos, drawing 1.06 million kids 6-11, 1.39 million viewers 6-14 and 926,000 tweens 9-14.