Telepic draws record-breaking 11.4 million

Nobody can corral a crowd of kids on Friday night quite like the Disney Channel.

Net’s debut of “Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie” drew a whopping average audience of 11.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen prelims, making it cable’s most-watched telecast of the year.

Disney Channel can now claim the top four entertainment telecasts on cable over the past two years with “High School Musical 2″ (17.2 million in August 2007), Friday’s “Wizards” movie, an episode of “Hannah Montana” (10.7 million in August 2007) and crossover event “Wizards on Deck With Hannah Montana” (9.3 million on July 17).

And all four aired on Fridays, where the cabler — as well as rival Nickelodeon — has smartly tapped into a willing and available audience. It also helps that the broadcast networks no longer go after kids and teens on the night.

“Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie,” based on the family comedy about three young siblings who happen to be wizards, also ranks as television’s No. 1 entertainment telecast of 2009 in kids 6-11 (4.5 million) and tweens 9-14 (4.0 million), according to Nielsen.

No other program came close to “Wizards” on Friday, as the top broadcast telecast was an NFL preseason game on CBS, which drew about 6 million viewers. Actually, no Friday entertainment telecast on the broadcast nets has drawn more than the 11.4 million for “Wizards” since an episode of CBS’ “Ghost Whisperer” about six months ago.

In other ratings news, Thursday saw Lifetime’s “Project Runway” come back to earth a bit in its second airing on the net (1.6/5 in 18-49, 3.49m), declining by 11% in 18-49, 17% in total viewers and by a larger amount among young women. Still, it was cable’s top show of the night in key femme demos.

Opposite “Runway,” the season finale of USA’s “Royal Pains” (1.7/5, 5.88m) was cable’s No. 1 show in the hour among 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers. The net says “Royal” concludes its run as the top-rated USA rookie season on record in key demos and total viewers, surpassing the perf of “The 4400″ in 2004.

And “Big Brother 11″ on CBS (2.7/9 in 18-49, 7.79m) was the night’s top program in all key adult demos, hitting a Thursday high in 18-49 and 25-54 (3.3/10).

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more