USA original-movie ratings soar

NEW YORK — The USA Network has harvested some of the best original-movie ratings in its history in the last six weeks, emerging as one of the major beneficiaries of the broadcast networks’ plummet to record-low summer primetime Nielsens.

“Perfect Crime,” which USA ran July 9, chalked up the network’s best numbers of the year, with a 4.4 rating in the cable universe. “Crime” ended up the second-highest-rated program among all cable networks for the week, behind a special “Home Run Derby” event on ESPN, which finished with a 5.7 rating.

The 13 originals USA has scheduled through mid-July have averaged a 3.4 rating in cable homes, 13% above the 3.0 rating the network had averaged through the same period in 1996.

USA’s competitors in new-movie production are either flat year to year, or down. The numbers are not in yet on TNT’s “Rough Riders” miniseries, running in two parts on July 20 and 21, but TNT’s season-to-date 4.1 rating average for made-for-cable movies is even with its rating for the first seven months of last year.

The two other cable networks that schedule original movies (excluding the pay channels), Lifetime and the Family Channel, are both off in made-for ratings year to year.

Lifetime’s firstrun movies fell from a 3.4 rating through July of last year to a 2.9 so far in 1996, a 15% decrease.

The original movies on Family, which is about to be taken over by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Kids Worldwide, skidded a dizzying 33%, slipping from a 3.9 rating in 1996 to a 2.6 this year.

The highest-rated original movie overall this year is TNT’s Jan. 19 cablecast of the Tom Selleck Western “Last Stand at Saber River,” which racked up a 7.3 rating.

Lifetime’s best-performing new movie in 1997 is “Prison of Secrets,” which got a 3.6 when it ran March 16. Family Channel’s best is “While My Pretty One Sleeps,” which came in at a 4.0 on Jan. 12.

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