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USA bests Q2 cable ratings

Network rides hit series in key demos victory

USA keeps piling up hit series and ratings victories, standing as the top-rated cabler in key demos during the second quarter.

TNT, boosted by the NBA playoffs, was a solid No. 2, while laffer net TBS ran third in all key demos. Of note in cable news was a dominant victory by Fox News — the biggest cable gainer for the quarter — and a first-ever second-place finish for MSNBC, which bested CNN.

(All estimates are provided by Nielsen Media Research for the period of March 30 through June 28.)

For USA, April through June represents the 12th consecutive quarter in which the net has ruled as the top cabler in adults 18-49 and 25-54. And its 3.17 million viewers overall rep the most ever for any cable network in a second quarter.

Playing a big role was hot new drama “Royal Pains,” which emerged as the quarter’s top-rated original scripted cable series in adults 18-49 (2.78 million). It joins a deep stable of scripted successes at the net, including current dramas “Burn Notice” (No. 2 scripted cable series for the quarter in 18-49) and “In Plain Sight.”

Net also continues to get nice boosts from Monday’s “WWE Raw” as well as repeats of “NCIS.”

At TNT, the highest-rated NBA postseason to date contributed to the net’s runner-up finishes in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers, and the young appeal of pro hoops helped it move to No. 1 in adults 18-34 (645,000). It also continues to get sturdy support on Monday from hit drama “The Closer” and is off to a solid start for Tuesday nurse drama “Hawthorne.”

Fox News ranked 13th among cablers in adults 25-54 (518,000) and third in total viewers (2.13 million), growing by 50% and 35%, respectively. In the key news demo, it vaulted from a 20th-place finish a year ago and beat the combined deliveries of news rivals MSNBC (268,000, down 1% vs. last year) and CNN (240,000, down 19%).

It’s the first time CNN has fallen to third among the newsies.

FNC’s “The O’Reilly Factor” remained the top series draw in cable news, averaging 3.19 million viewers overall (and 736,000 adults 25-54) each night.

Headline News had a strong quarter as well, logging best-ever numbers in adults 25-54 (206,000) and total viewers (556,000) — growing by 40% in both categories.

Other notable gainers for the month included TLC — home of the record-setting “Jon and Kate Plus 8” — which ranked 11th for the month in 18-49 and was up 19% (550,000 vs. 461,000). FX was also on the rise (726,000 vs. 623,000), moving to sixth place in 18-49 from eighth a year ago.

Bravo, riding “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” claimed its highest-rated second quarter to date in both 18-49 (445,000) and total viewers (724,000).

On the down side, Lifetime skidded 23% in 18-49 to No. 19, Sci Fi slid 17% to No. 15, and Spike tumbled by 19% but still ranked 10th.

The top cable nets for the quarter in 18-49: USA (1.37 million, up 9% vs. 2008); TNT (1.33m, up 7%); TBS (965,000, down 3%); ESPN (827,000, down 2%); Discovery (746,000, up 1%).

Tops in 25-54: USA (1.47 million, up 15%); TNT (1.34m, up 8%); TBS (838,000, down 2%); ESPN (812,000, down 1%); Discovery (738,000, up 3%).

Tops in total viewers: USA (3.17 million, up 15%); TNT (2.84m, up 8%); Fox News (2.13m, up 34%); ESPN (1.71m, down 1%); Nick at Nite (1.63m, down 5%).

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