USA wins August cable ratings

Net averaged 3.79 million viewers for month

USA Network closed out the summer on yet another high note, averaging 3.79 million viewers in prime time for the month of August, while sweeping the three major demos.

Per Nielsen ratings data, USA increased its nightly delivery by 41% versus the year-ago period, while posting a 34% gain among adults 25-54. The network averaged 1.68 million members of the demo, up from 1.26 million in August 2008.

NBC Universal's flagship cable property enjoyed a 25% boost among viewers 18-49, averaging 1.43 million, while improving its standing with the 18-34 set by 22%, to 588,000.

Upon adding the final week's ratings to its summer totals, USA will walk away from the hot season with an average nightly audience of 3.6 million viewers, a 26% increase from its year-ago delivery (2.86 million).

The network laid claim to 12 of the 20 most-watched shows on ad-supported cable in August, including top-ranked original drama "Burn Notice," which drew 9.1 million viewers with its midseason finale, per Nielsen live-plus-seven-day date. With a week of DVR playback factored in, the Aug. 6 episode also outdrew all comers among the 18-49 demo (3.76 million) and with adults 25-54 (4.41 million).

That same night, "Burn" lead-out "Royal Pains" drew 8.2 million viewers. All told, four USA originals landed in the upper echelon, including "Monk," which notched 6.37 million viewers on Aug. 7, and "In Plain Sight," which scared up 5.55 million viewers on the 9th. Meanwhile, the July 27 installment of "WWE Raw" drew a month-high 5.97 million viewers between 9 p.m. and 11:14 p.m.

TNT closed the door on August with a second-place finish, averaging 2.55 million viewers in prime, an increase of 9% year-over-year. The Turner net also took the silver among the two larger demos, averaging 1.17 million 25-54s (up 12%), and 994,000 18-49s (up 13%).

For its part, TNT boasted five of the top 10 programs on ad-supported cable, as each successive installment of "The Closer" drew a crowd on Monday nights at 9 p.m. TNT's greatest delivery came on July 27, when the series drew 8.88 million viewers, of which 3.62 million were members of the 25-54 demo and 2.86 million were viewers 18-49.

The Aug. 3 episode of "The Closer" served up 8.4 million viewers, while the following week's installment drew 7.39 million.

TNT also took second in prime for the entire summer season, averaging 2.46 million viewers between June 1 and Aug.
30, an increase of 6% versus the prior-year period.

Fox News Channel retained the No. 3 spot in prime, drawing an average audience of 2.3 million viewers on the month, an increase of 17%. More importantly, FNC grew its delivery of the core news demo by 25%, averaging 595,000 adults 25-54, good for 13th among all ad-supported cable outlets.

The news network's summer gains were even stronger, as FNC added 504,000 nightly viewers, a 30% increase versus a year ago. All told, FNC averaged 2.17 million viewers in prime, of which 560,000 were members of the 25-54 set.

Nick at Nite was the fourth most-watched cable net, averaging 1.91 million total viewers, bettering its summer 2008 deliveries by 18%. ESPN, which grew 1% to 1.8 million, assumed fifth place for the season.

Rounding out August's top 10 were: TBS, which dipped 3% in prime to 1.66 million viewers, while taking second among 18-34s (547,000); A&E, up 11% to 1.4 million viewers, while taking fifth place among 18-49s and 25-54s; HGTV, up 21% to 1.39 million; ABC Family, up 2% to 1.36 million; and Lifetime, which fell 7% in prime with an average nightly draw of 1.34 million viewers.

The biggest winners among the top 40 nets were: Food Network, which soared 56% to 1.29 million viewers; TLC, up 40% to 1.13 million; CMT, up 35% to 389,000; WE tv, up 32% to 340,000; Travel Channel, up 31% to 547,000; Soap Net, up 30% to 411,000; E!, up 28% to 608,000; National Geographic Channel, up 27% to 442,000; FX, up 17% to 1.22 million; History, also up 17% to 1.2 million; truTV, up 14% to 1.12 million; Discovery Channel, up 11% to 1.25 million; and VH1, up 10% to 688,000.

All told, 18 of the 40 leading cable nets posted double-digit gains among total viewers. Conversely, only six of the most-watched nets endured double-digit declines. On a percentage basis, CNN took the biggest hit in August, losing nearly a third (32%) of its nightly audience with an average delivery of 892,000 viewers.

Also facing a summer slump were: Hallmark Channel, down 24% to 960,000 viewers; TV Land, falling 21% to 625,000 viewers; Cartoon Network, down 20% to 1.13 million viewers; Spike TV, down 19% to 910,000 viewers; and Headline News, off 16% to 465,000 viewers.

Top 10 ad-supported cable nets among the core TV demo were: USA, averaging 1.43 million viewers 18-49, a 25% increase versus August '08; TNT (994,000, up 13%); TBS (flat at 980,000); ESPN (down 2% to 836,000); A&E (down 2% to 694,000); Discovery Channel (up 15% to 676,000); FX (up 14% to 670,000); Food Network (up a whopping 54% to 652,000); Nick at Nite (up 5% to 631,000); and History, which jumped 24% to 596,000, tying ABC Family (down 2%).

But for Fox News, which grew 17% to 424,000, the cable news nets faced the biggest losses among viewers 18-49 in August. CNN saw half of the demo disappear, averaging 203,000 viewers, while Headline News lost a quarter of that audience, drawing 138,000 versus its year-ago 183,000. MSNBC fell 19% in the demo, to 228,000.

Non-ad-supported Disney Channel claimed second place among all basic cable nets last month, boosting its nightly deliveries by 20% with an average 3.02 million viewers, up from 2.51 million a year ago. The Mouse continued to dominate the kiddie demos, averaging 1.24 million viewers 6-11, an increase of 13%, while improving its standing among 'tweens 9-14 by 12%, drawing 1.02 million.

Disney nailed down its biggest delivery of the year at the close of August, drawing 11.4 million viewers on the night of the 28th with the premiere of "Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie." The Selena Gomez vehicle drew 4.5 million kids 6-11 and 4 million 'tweens 9-14, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data.

The "Wizards" film now stands as Disney's second most popular since the network began programming original movies, back in 1997. Two years ago, Disney drew 17.2 million viewers with the premiere of "High School Musical 2"; upon application of live-plus-seven-day data, that delivery rose 8% to 18.6 million.
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