‘Closer’ opens door for cablers

Skein tops 8 mil in bow

TNT’s “The Closer” shattered cable records Monday night by attracting 8.3 million viewers for its second-season premiere.

Tally for the procedural drama eclipsed the show’s own record-setting performance of 7 million in total viewers last summer. Episode ranks as ad-supported cable’s most-watched telecast of a scripted series (although the 9 p.m. seg aired sans commercials).

Good news comes in the wake of a mixed bag for cable on Sunday. USA’s sci-fi drama “The 4400” got off to big start in its third cycle, while the season opener of “Entourage” was the only happy news for HBO on what turned out to be a night of weak bows for the paybox. 

Overall viewership for “The Closer” bested broadcast competition from ABC, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB in the 9 p.m. time period.

Program also fared pretty well in key 18-49 (2.6 mil) and 25-54 (3.6 mil) demos, though 18-49 results were flat from the first-season premiere.

“This is a broadcast-type rating,” TNT/TBS exec VP-chief operating officer Steve Koonin said. “What we have with ‘The Closer’ is a really great balance between the creative cache of cable and the delivery of a broadcast network. Despite being in fewer households than the major networks, we’ve been able to do something pretty extraordinary here.”

“The Closer,” which stars Kyra Sedgwick as a tough police interrogator, gave a significant boost to frosh EMT drama “Saved,” which drew strong demos, comparable to its lead-in — 2.1 mil in 18-49 and 2.6 mil in 25-54 — in addition to 5.1 million viewers overall.

Although not the target audience for “The Closer,” the NBA Playoffs gave TNT a strong launch pad in the weeks leading up to the drama’s premiere. Ratings for the first three rounds of the playoffs on the cabler, including the Western Conference Finals, were up by double-digit percentages vs. last year. Basketball also probably helped bring viewers to the more male-skewing “Saved.”

Elsewhere, USA posted robust demos Sunday for “The 4400,” drawing 2.4 mil each in both the 18-49 and 25-54 demos. Skein drew 4.1 mil viewers overall and posted gains from the previous season in every category.

Season-three premiere of “Entourage” on HBO grabbed 2.7 million viewers — well above the second season’s 1.6 million. Showing outpaced that of lead-in “Deadwood,” which rustled up its lowest premiere yet with 2.4 million.

A smaller 1.5 million stuck around for frosh sitcom “Lucky Louie,” HBO’s first stab at a multi-camera comedy, which followed “Entourage” at 10:30.

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