Show averaged 10.76 million viewers; tennis still strong

The MTV Video Music Awards delivered its second largest audience on Thursday, although the kudocast was unable to approach the teen ratings it delivered two years ago. According to Nielsen Media Research, Thursday’s show averaged 10.76 million viewers, up 9% from last year but down 10% from the record-setting pace of 1999 (11.94 million). MTV was Thursday’s most-watched primetime network, averaging about 1 million viewers more than runner-up ABC (9.80m).

The huge turnout also makes the kudocast the most-watched program on cable television since Jan. 21 TNT made-for Western “Crossfire Trail.”

Even with Viacom sister network UPN taking wrestling’s “WWF Smackdown” off Thursday’s sked to free up as many teens as possible, the MTV kudocast was up only slightly year to year in teens (a 9.9 national rating vs. a 9.8 in 2000). Last year’s show had fallen by nearly 40% from the 1999 show, which was hosted by Chris Rock and set ratings records across the board.

But there were plenty of demo highlights for this year’s three-hour event, which was hosted by Jamie Foxx and included perfs by Jennifer Lopez and U2.

Ratings were up year to year by 37% in men 25-34 and 11% in men 25-34. MTV also topped second-place NBC in primetime in adults 18-49 (5.3 vs. 4.6) and adults 18-34 (7.6 vs. 4.6), the first time this summer that NBC hasn’t won the night.

Elsewhere Thursday, the season premiere of ABC’s comedy-improv show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” (2.8/9 and 3.5/10 in A18-49 for its two episodes) was down about 7% from last year’s opener but did draw its largest overall audience (7.56 million average for the hour) since March 29.

On Saturday, CBS coverage of the women’s final at the U.S. Open, matching sisters Venus and Serena Williams, scored a solid 8.2 rating/14 share in metered-market overnights from 8-10, winning the two-hour block by 5 shares over Fox. Reliable national ratings and demos won’t be available until Tuesday.

Three nights earlier, a men’s semifinal between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi on USA became the most-watched tennis event in cable history (4.6 million viewers).

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