Network is top ad-supported basic-cabler of '07

Vince McMahon’s wrestlers, Tony Shalhoub’s “Monk” and the solid new hits “Burn Notice” and “The Starter Wife” helped drive the primetime schedule of USA Network into first place among ad-supported basic-cable nets in 2007.

USA is averaging 2.67 million total viewers in primetime through Dec. 9, which guarantees it the No. 1 slot for the second year in a row.

The Disney Channel, which doesn’t accept advertising, is slightly ahead of USA, harvesting 2.70 million primetime viewers (also through Dec. 9). But Bonnie Hammer, president of USA and Sci Fi Channel, said USA could overtake Disney Channel in the last three weeks of the year with a multiple-run cablecast of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” in its first basic-cable play, during the weekend of Dec. 21, as well as a couple of Monday-night wrestling specials and such high-visibility repeat pics as “Elf,” “Liar Liar,” “50 First Dates” and “Bruce Almighty.”

Hammer said USA is almost playing in a different arena than its ad-supported cable competitors. On the one hand, USA has distanced itself from No. 2 TNT by about 466,000 total viewers for 2007. On the other, USA is right on the heels of broadcast net the CW, which edges it in primetime by only about 104,000 viewers.

USA will finish No. 1 for the year in the three key adult primetime demos (25-54, 18-49 and 18-34), beating even Disney Channel in these categories.

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