Disney trails just two networks

Fox put an exclamation point on a winning summer last week thanks to the finales of its hit reality shows, but it was overshadowed by Disney Channel phenom “High School Musical 2.”

A weekend triple play of the socko sequel helped the cabler rise to No. 3 for the week in total viewers — behind only CBS and Fox — while its weekly primetime average of 5.93 million viewers is the second best on record for a cable network. It’s also the seventh straight week that Disney Channel, which is also cooking with original series “Hannah Montana” and “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” has been the most-watched cable net in primetime.

Friday’s premiere of “High School Musical 2″ averaged 17.24 million viewers overall, making it the most-watched cable telecast on record (Daily Variety, Aug. 20).

Rebroadcasts of “HSM2″ averaged 8.44 million viewers on Saturday and 7.54 million on Sunday, for a weekend total of 33.22 million viewers. By comparison, “Spider-Man 3″ sold roughly 22.6 million tickets in its record-setting weekend in May when it accumulated more than $151 million at the box office.

Friday’s premiere obliterated the previous cable high for a movie (12.5 million for TNT’s “Crossfire Trail” in 2001), and it’s the largest aud for any movie on any net since “The Magic of Ordinary Days” on CBS in January 2005.

The only other cable programs to draw 16 million or more were the 1993 NAFTA debate on CNN (16.8 million) and September’s “Monday Night Football” game on ESPN between New Orleans and Atlanta (16.0 million for the Saints’ post-Katrina return to the Superdome).

The debut airing of “HSM2″ was the week’s No. 3 program among adults 18-49 (3.5/13) — behind two Fox reality finales — and ranked No. 1 in numerous categories, including persons 12-34 (6.5/25) and total viewers. In the latter category, it’s the best showing for any television program since May.

It earned an incredible 80 share of the girls 6-11 audience and a 54 share of teens 12-17.

For the week, Disney Channel’s average primetime audience (5.93 million viewers) trails only the 6 million that ESPN averaged in December 2005 when it aired an NFL contest as well as a handful of college bowl games.

Fox, meanwhile, was primetime’s leader once again in adults 18-49 with a 2.3 rating/8 share, followed by CBS (1.9/6), NBC (1.7/5), ABC (1.5/5), Univision (1.3/4) and Disney Channel (1.1/3). Fox also edged out CBS for the 25-54 lead (2.5/7 to 2.4/7), while the Eye won as usual in total viewers (6.7 million to 6.0 million for Fox and 5.9 million for Disney Channel).

Fox rode the finales of “Hell’s Kitchen” on Monday (4.5 rating/12 share in adults 18-49, 9.68 million viewers overall) and “So You Think You Can Dance” on Thursday (3.7/11, 9.61m) to its 28th consecutive weekly victory among adults 18-49.

The streak, which began in January with postseason football and the return of “American Idol,” is the longest for any net in 11 years. It’s likely to come to an end either this week or next, though, with CBS seemingly best positioned to turn the trick.

Hot for CBS last week was “Big Brother 8,” with Tuesday’s edition (3.2/9 in 18-49, 7.56m) delivering the best key adult demos for any of the skein’s nights this summer, and Sunday hitting a season high to win its timeslot (2.9/8, 7.38m).

Net’s new quizzer “Power of 10″ is holding on, though it’s hardly a powerhouse (2.0/7, 7.67m).

NBC was led by Tuesday’s combo of “The Singing Bee” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 9.73m) and “America’s Got Talent” (3.1/10, 10.83m), with the latter the most-watched broadcast telecast of the week.

And ABC’s best showings came from unscripted fare: Tuesday’s firstrun hidden-camera skein “Just for Laughs” (2.5/8, 6.88m) and Sunday’s repeat of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (2.5/7 in 18-49, 7.55m).

In addition to “High School Musical” and Disney Channel, cable’s standout performer of the week was the season finale of History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers” on Sunday (2.2/6 in 18-49, 4.85m). It set a record for the network and was Sunday’s No. 1 cable program in 18-49, 25-54 and most key male demos.

USA was the top ad-supported cable network of the week, as WWE Raw had its best showing of summer on Monday at 10 (1.9/6 in 18-49, 5.22m), and the net’s hot rookie drama “Burn Notice” (1.6/5 in 18-49, 4.23m) was Thursday’s top show in key demos.

“Raw” wasn’t the only big cable performer on Monday, as the busy night also included MTV’s “The Hills” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 3.69m for its hour), ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” opener between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers (1.8/5, 4.35m) and TNT drama “The Closer” (1.5/4, 7.36m).

And clicking to close out the week on Sunday were HBO’s “Entourage” (1.8/5, 2.77m), Lifetime’s “Army Wives” (1.3/4, 3.81m) and VH1′s Sunday celebreality shows “Rock of Love” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.15m) and “Hogan Knows Best” (1.1/3, 1.96m), both of which hit season highs.

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