USA tops TNT for ratings win

Network is July's most-watched cable channel

USA Network will wrap up July as cable's most-watched network, averaging 3.15 million total viewers in prime, while sweeping all three major demos.
According to Nielsen ratings data for the period spanning June 30 through July 27, USA averaged 1.45 million adults 25-54, 1.29 million viewers 18-49 and 553,000 viewers 18-34, thanks in large part to the success of its original series "Royal Pains" and "Burn Notice."
Freshman drama "Pains" accounted for three of the top 20 programs on ad-supported cable, while lead-in "Burn Notice" also drew three of the month's largest audiences. Both series enjoyed their high-water marks on July 9, as "Pains" drew 7.27 million viewers in the Thursday 10 p.m. slot, while "Burn" set the table with 7.05 million viewers.
That same night saw "Pains" and "Burn" draw the month's greatest deliveries for scripted series among the 18-49 set, as the latter averaged 3.25 million members of the demo, while its lead-out drew 3.07 million.
Other reliable draws for USA were "WWE Raw," "In Plain Sight" and "NCIS."
Second place on the month went to TNT, which continued to serve up huge numbers with its original drama strip, "The Closer." The Turner net averaged 2.5 million viewers in prime, of which 1.15 million were adults 25-54 and 969,000 were viewers 18-49.
New episodes of "The Closer" landed in the top 10, including the June 29 installment, which averaged 7.7 million viewers, per Nielsen live-plus-seven-day data. That extra week of DVR playback boosted the episode's overall viewership by 22% versus the 6.3 million viewers initially tracked by Nielsen's live-plus-same-day data.
A similar dynamic held for "The Closer's" July 6 run, which drew 7.35 million viewers, up 22% from the live-plus-same-day delivery (6.05 million).
TNT also enjoyed a lift from its Nascar Sprint Cup coverage, which generally drew in the neighborhood of 5 million viewers. The network's biggest race of '09 was the Independence Day event in Daytona, which drew 5.47 million viewers between 8:05 p.m. and 11:15 p.m.
Fox News Channel held onto third place in July, averaging 2.08 million viewers, an increase of 43% year-over-year. The news net finished 12th among the core demo, averaging 533,000 adults 25-54, an improvement of 70% from its July '08 delivery of 313,000.
Fourth place went to Nick at Nite, which on July 5 officially moved its starting time back to 8 p.m., aligning it with the rest of ad-supported TV. The network averaged 1.75 million viewers in prime.
TBS claimed fifth place, drawing an average nightly audience of 1.51 million viewers, down 16% versus the prior-year period. The Turner net took second place among the 18-34 crowd, averaging 488,000 viewers (down 18%), while finishing third with 25-54s (810,000, down 12%) and 18-49s (894,000, down 13%).
Closing out the top 10 were: ABC Family, which grew 7% to 1.47 million viewers; FX, which was up 10% with 1.42 million viewers; Syfy (nee Sci Fi Channel), up 6% to 1.36 million viewers; ESPN, down 11% to 1.34 million viewers and Discovery Channel, down 1% to 1.25 million viewers.
Non-ad-supported Disney Channel was July's second-most watched basic-cable property, averaging just under 3 million viewers in prime. The Mouse drew its largest audience of the year-to-date on Friday, July 17, as the 90-minute programming stunt "Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana" scared up a whopping 9.29 million viewers.