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LeBron tops big cable week

Comedy Central, History and Discovery also land hot series

From LeBron and Tosh to vampires and pawn stars, last week was a big one for cable.

Topping all of primetime in key demos last week was ESPN’s hourlong Thursday special “LeBron: The Decision” (4.3/14 in 18-49, 9.95 million viewers overall), as free agent NBA All-Star revealed that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat. It became the highest-rated ESPN program on record outside of sporting action.

(The overall audience, by the way, was almost identical to the largest aud that James drew as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers: the 9.91 million who tuned in for the team’s fourth and final defeat in the 2007 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs.)

Broadcast accounted for last week’s most-watched event, the final of soccer’s World Cup, which aired on Sunday afternoon. Spain’s 1-0 victory over the Netherlands averaged a combined 24.3 million viewers on ABC (15.5 million) and Univision (8.8 million) — a big 28% hike over the 19 million that watched the 2006 final between Italy and France, and the largest aud ever in the U.S. for a soccer game (Daily Variety, July 13).

The post-July 4 sesh is usually a good opportunity for cable to flex its muscles, and the results were some brawny Nielsens. And that’s before this current week’s return of hit dramas like “The Closer” on TNT and “White Collar” on USA, both of which are being used to introduce new series behind them.

The record for largest English-language soccer aud in the States remains the 17.97 million who viewed USA’s women’s final against China in 1999.

Overall for the July 5-11 frame, the broadcast networks were tightly bunched in the 18-49 demo, with Fox on top (1.6/5), followed by NBC (1.5/5), ABC and Univision (1.4/5) and CBS (1.3/4).

The Eye — whose “Big Brother” opened its 12th season on a good note — led by a lash over NBC and Fox in adults 25-54 (1.9/6 to 1.8/5) and won in total viewers (6.3 million to 5.2 million for NBC).

Aside from the James spec, cable was also represented among the week’s top 20 programs in adults 18-49 by HBO’s “True Blood” (2.7/8 in 18-49, 4.68m), History’s “Pawn Stars” (2.4/7, 6.24m average for its hour) and Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch” (2.4/6, 5.27m).

Elsewhere, Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” (1.5/5, 2.41m) has become the network’s hottest show, hitting another high while logging the cabler’s best Wednesday 10:30 p.m. since “Chappelle’s Show” in 2004. Show, similar to E!’s “The Soup” but chronicling all that is newsworthy and weird on the Internet, is outperforming the net’s veteran hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

A&E had reason to be pleased with the premiere of police procedural “The Glades,” which drew 3.55 million viewers on Sunday — the largest audience to date for a scripted drama on the net.

Among reality entries clicking were E! with “Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 2.34m), MTV with “The Hills” (1.2/4, 1.98m) and Bravo’s “Top Chef” (1.3/4, 2.58m).

And ABC Family was cable’s No. 1 network among women 18-49 (and tied for third in adults 18-49) behind series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” (1.2/4, 2.99m), “Pretty Little Liars” (1.0/4, 2.62m) and Sunday’s airing of theatrical “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (1.1/4, 2.85m).

USA led cable for the week as usual, driven by “WWE Raw” (1.8/5, 4.79m for its two hours).

On the broadcast side, Fox’s narrow 18-49 victory was paced by “Hell’s Kitchen,” whose two hours on Tuesday averaged a 3.2/10 in 18-49 and 6.90 million viewers overall — winning the night, rising 19% week to week and placing in the top 5.

The net’s only other top-20 offering was “So You Think You Can Dance,” led by its two-hour performance seg on Wednesday (2.3/8, 6.30m).

NBC nearly caught Fox for the week, as “America’s Got Talent” segs on Tuesday (3.4/10 in 18-49, 11.82m) and Wednesday (3.4/10, 11.95m) tied as the week’s top series in 18-49. They also led the frame in total viewers.

Also for the net, “Minute to Win It” made a solid return to the sked on Wednesday (2.1/7, 6.97m), placing first or second in most categories.

CBS welcomed back “Big Brother,” which was up vs. last year with its premieres on both Thursday (2.5/9 in 18-49, 7.35m) and Sunday (2.4/8, 7.03m). Otherwise, highlights came from repeats of shows like “The Big Bang Theory” (2.5/7, 8.50m), “Two and a Half Men” (2.2/6, 8.32m) and “NCIS” (1.8/6, 10.74m).

Leading the way for ABC were reality vets “Wipeout” on Tuesday (3.0/10 in 18-49, 8.76m) and “The Bachelorette” on Monday (2.8/8, 9.14m), while auds found newsmag “Primetime: What Would You Do,” which moved to Friday and won its timeslot with a repeat (1.6/6, 4.74m).

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