USA tops cable networks for the week

Channel edges out TNT by only 254,000 viewers

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, topping the Turner net by a margin of just 254,000 people.

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

The network'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 April 23 with Game 3 of the Lakers-Jazz series, while Game 2 of the Celtics-Bulls showdown Monday night delivered 3.8 million.

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

TNT's basketball coverage helped knock Fox News Channel into third place, marking the first time the news network has fallen out of second since the week of Feb. 16, Nielsen said. Fox News closed out the week with an average delivery of 2.3 million viewers, 547,000 of which were members of 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 1.83 million viewers. NFL analyst Mel Kiper Jr. and company delivered a captive audience of 5.1 million football fans Saturday afternoon, of which 3 million were viewers 18-49. Another 2.8 million adults 25-54 tuned in for ESPN's 4-9 p.m. coverage of the draft.

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

Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite squeaked past TBS by a margin of about 6,000 viewers, claiming fifth place on the week with an average delivery of 1.6 million viewers. As in weeks past, the kids net drew a crowd with a new Wednesday night installment of "iCarly" (4.5 million viewers).

While 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 program on ad-supported cable. "WWE Raw" averaged 5.3 million viewers Monday night (9-10:07 p.m.), and a repeat episode of "NCIS" served up 4.3 million viewers in the 7 p.m. slot. A new installment of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" drew 4.1 million viewers Sunday night as Jeff Goldblum made his debut on the show.

USA won its fourth consecutive month, growing 11% year-over-year with an average delivery of 3.1 million total viewers.