NEW YORK — More people watched ESPN last week than ever before in the 26-year history of the network.
A mix of Sunday-night pro football, five Major League Baseball playoff games (one of them on ESPN2) and a marquee Saturday college-football matchup between Ohio State and Penn State drove ESPN to a record 4.58 million total primetime viewers for the week ended Sunday.
ESPN’s dominance was of such a magnitude that second-place USA ended up trailing ESPN by almost 2 million viewers. USA’s 2.657 million total is good enough for No. 1 during most weeks.
Powerhouse ESPN performance extended to the three key adult demographics, beating runner-up USA decisively in adults 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.
Programs on ESPN were 10 of the 14 highest-rated individual shows of the week. The top four for the period, all on ESPN, were the Bengals-Jaguars NFL game on Oct. 9, the Angels-Yankees baseball playoff on Oct. 7, the Red Sox-White Sox contest on Oct. 5 and the Ohio State-Penn State match Saturday.
The fifth and sixth slots went to the back-to-back hours of pro wrestling’s “WWE Raw” on USA.
The highest-rated nonsports/nonwrestling program was Lifetime’s original movie “Haunting Sarah,” which drew 4.04 million viewers on Oct. 3 for 15th place overall. Right behind, at No. 16, was an Oct. 3 episode of FX’s “Nip/Tuck,” which harvested 3.89 million.
The highest-rated theatrical movie was TNT’s Saturday run of “Legally Blonde,” which chalked up 3.6 million viewers, good for 20th place.
In total day, ESPN finished a close second to perennial winner Nickelodeon, which averaged 1.9 million viewers to ESPN’s 1.84 million.
Behind ESPN and USA in primetime among total viewers for the week were, in order, TNT, Lifetime, Cartoon, Nick at Nite, Fox News Channel, TBS, Spike and FX.