Finale draws cabler's biggest aud ever

VH1 proved there was life outside the “Sopranos”-vs.-“Desperate Housewives” showdown Sunday.

Cabler’s “Flavor of Love” season finale at 10 drew a staggering 5.9 million viewers — the biggest tally in VH1 history — besting the premieres of HBO’s “Big Love” and Lifetime’s “Cheerleader Nation.”

Ninety-minute episode did especially well against “Grey’s Anatomy.” In that show’s target demo of women 18-34, “Flavor” notched a 4.6 national rating/12 share. “Flavor” also topped all programming on basic cable for the week of March 6-12, ahead of wrestling and new episodes of “Monk” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

More impressive, skein ranks as the No. 1 nonsports telecast among adults 18-49 year-to-date (2.8/7).

From the producers of “The Surreal Life,” “Flavor of Love” is VH1’s spin on relationship series “The Bachelor” with rapper Flavor Flav at its center.

Meanwhile, as suggested by its overnight ratings (Daily Variety, March 14), HBO’s fifth-season premiere of “The Sopranos” (4.5/10 in 18-49, 9.47m) came in 27% below the March 2004 fourth-season opener in 18-49.

New drama “Big Love” followed with an average of 2.2/5 in 18-49 and 4.56 million viewers overall — a good tally for the paybox. Most recent one-hour to launch, “Rome,” drew 3.8 million in its initial showing without the benefit of “Sopranos” as a lead-in; “Deadwood” preem drew 5.8 million.

As for Lifetime, “Cheerleader Nation” drew a modest 1.6 million overall viewers, but gave Lifetime its best-ever rating for a reality show in women 18-34 (0.9/2). ABC Family’s original movie “Cutting Edge 2: Going For the Gold” posted a 1.0/2 in the same demo, attracting 3.4 million total viewers. Two-hour ran 7-9 p.m.

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