TNT ignites with ‘Closer’

Scripted shows draw auds to cabler

NEW YORK — TNT pulled in record numbers of viewers for original scripted programming in the last few days, harvesting 7 million people for the premiere of the cop series “The Closer” on Monday and chalking up another 23 million for the six runs of “Into the West” over the weekend of June 10-12.

“We started to build this strategy three years ago,” said Steve Koonin, executive VP and chief operating officer of TNT and TBS. “We created the foundation for these original programs to succeed,” referring, in part, to the use as promotional vehicles of high-rated reruns (like “Law & Order” and “Charmed”), first-window theatrical movies and big sports events like the NBA playoffs.

“The Closer,” starring Kyra Sedgwick, set an all-time basic-cable record not only with its total viewers but also with its 5.26 million households. For the night of June 13, “Closer” beat all of the primetime series in households on ABC, Fox, UPN and the WB, as well as most of the lineup on CBS and NBC.

For “Into the West,” the combined six-telecast weekend runs of the first two hours of the 12-hour limited series made “West” the most-watched program of the week among total viewers, households, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.

“Into the West” and the clinching game of the National Basketball Assn.’s Eastern Conference finals propelled TNT into a runaway No. 1 for the week ended June 12 in total viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.

TNT wasn’t the only network with bragging rights. USA came through with a strong Nielsen showing for episodes of “The 4400” (4.38 million total viewers on June 12) and the premiere of the new season of “The Dead Zone” (3.45 million, also on June 12).

When the 2.9 million viewers of Lifetime’s sixth-season premiere of “Strong Medicine” (also June 12) get thrown into the mix, the period of June 10 to 13 will go down as possibly the best four days of original scripted series in the history of cable.

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