Pay TV shines as broadcasters air reruns

As the broadcast nets transitioned from the November sweep to repeats and holiday specials last week, it was cable’s turn to shine.

USA’s “Monk” ended its run with boffo numbers, FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” revved up the ratings with its season finale, and “Dexter” drew Showtime’s largest audience in a decade.

And then there was the monster “Monday Night Football” game on ESPN, which ruled as the No. 1 primetime program of the week.

Fox, meanwhile, benefiting from an NFL overrun on Sunday and getting season highs from “Glee” and “Fringe,” led the Nov. 30-Dec. 6 frame overall in adults 18-49 — its record seventh victory in the fall.

According to Nielsen same-day estimates, Fox’s 2.8 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 put it ahead of NBC (2.6/7), ABC (2.4/7) and CBS (2.3/6). ESPN (1.8/5) ran fifth, followed by Univision (1.4/4) and USA (1.0/3).

Fox also won in adults 25-54 (3.1/8) and persons 12-34 (2.3/7) but CBS still ruled in total viewers (8.81 million) and has captured 10 of the season’s 11 weeks in the popular-vote category.

But the story of the week was the big numbers put up on cable, starting with the “Monday Night Football” game between the New England Patriots and undefeated New Orleans Saints (8.5 rating/21 share in adults 18-49, 21.40 million viewers overall). Game marked the second time this season that “MNF” has beaten all broadcast competish to stand as the week’s No. 1 show in adults 18-49.

At USA, “Monk” (2.4/8 in 18-49, 9.44m) wrapped its eighth and final season by drawing the largest overall audience on record for a basic cable drama. It was the top show of the night Friday in adults 18-49, beating “Medium” on CBS and “Dateline” while doubling up ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and tripling the delivery of Fox’s “Dollhouse.”

It led into “White Collar,” which hit series highs with its fall finale (1.6/5 in 18-49, 5.55m).

FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” ended its second season with impressive scores (2.3/6 in 18-49, 4.33m), including a whopping 3.2/10 in men 18-34. The big perf, along with comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” contributed to FX’s most-watched week in its 15-year history (averaging 2.14 million viewers).

A&E launched “Steven Seagal: Lawman” to strong scores, with its second of two premiere-night segs standing as cable’s No. 1 show in 18-49 on Wednesday (1.6/5 in 18-49, 3.57m), a night that also saw Bravo’s “Top Chef” (1.5/4, 3.00m) and Spike’s “The Ultimate Fighter” (1.5/4, 2.53m) put up good numbers.

Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” special movie “I Quit iCarly” set a series record with a whopping 8.85 million viewers on Saturday, easily making it the night’s most-watched entertainment telecast.

And Disney XD’s premiere of “Phineas and Ferb Christmas Vacation” on Sunday became the net’s No. 1 telecast to date in total viewers (2.62 million), kids 6-14 (1.30 million) and other categories.

At the broadcast nets, Fox’s “Glee” (3.6/10 in 18-49, 8.15m) hit series highs and “Fringe” (2.5/7, 6.94m) drew its best numbers of the television season, with both taking advantage of lighter-than-usual competish in their tough timeslots.

Also for the net, “House” stood as Monday’s No. 1 scripted skein (4.8/12, 13.25m), and Thursday’s “Bones” was also on the high side (2.9/8 in 18-49, 9.92m), opening up its biggest lead yet opposite competing ABC drama “FlashForward” (2.1/6, 7.07m).

At NBC, the “Sunday Night Football” game between the Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings was the week’s No. 2 program in most categories (7.8/19 in 18-49, 20.89m) even though the outcome was pretty much decided by early in the second half.

The Peacock also claimed the top show in 18-49 on both Tuesday, with “The Biggest Loser” (3.7/10, 9.99m), and Thursday, with “The Office” (4.1/11, 8.05m).

ABC’s best news came on the weekend, starting with Saturday’s telecast of college football’s Big 12 championship game between Texas and Nebraska (4.0/12 in 18-49, 12.69m), which produced the net’s largest aud on the night in three years.

And on Sunday, “Desperate Housewives” saw an uptick with its cliffhanger fall finale (4.9/11, 14.86m), and “Brothers and Sisters” hit a season high (3.7/9, 10.81m).

CBS got a boost from annual visitor “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (3.8/11, 10.59m) and also saw “The Amazing Race” wrap its 15th edition with good numbers (3.7/9, 12.30m) — rising roughly 20% above the ratings for its two most recent finales.

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