Nets impress but TNT, USA top quarter

Cable’s second-quarter ratings titles belonged to TNT and USA, but two other nets — History and MTV — were the real standouts.

History, riding more hit series than any other cabler, delivered its highest-rated quarter to date, led by “Pawn Stars.” And MTV proved it didn’t need the “Jersey Shore” gang to post sizable gains and log its sixth consecutive quarter of year-over-year improvement.

Other top-20 networks making notable Nielsen gains in key categories for the May 28-June 26 period were AMC (15th in adults 25-54 after gaining 15%), FX (sixth in 18-49, up 15%), Bravo (13th in 18-49, up 10%) and ABC Family (10th in 18-34, up 13%).

Top-20 nets on the decline in 18-49, meanwhile, were No. 15 TBS (off 18%) and No. 17 Food (down 12%).

“Pawn Stars” continues to power History, which rose in adults 18-49 cable rankings from fifth a year ago to third this time around (up 35% to 1 million viewers in the demo) and surged from seventh to fourth in total viewers (up 33% to 2.18 million).

While “Pawn Stars” was the quarter’s No. 1 cable series in adults 18-49 (often beating or challenging broadcast dramas in Monday’s 10 p.m. hour), History is by no means dependent on it alone. “American Pickers,” “Ax Men” and “Ice Road Truckers” were among its numerous hits, and the cabler also did well with spec “Gettysburg.”

In adults 25-54, “History” notes that it became the first nonfiction entertainment cabler to top 1 million viewers for a quarter (1.09 million); it had the No. 1 cable show in 25-54 on three nights (“Pawn Stars” on Monday, “Swamp People” on Thursday and “American Restoration” on Friday).

MTV did its damage in the 10 o’clock hour as usual, as “America’s Best Dance Crew,” “Real World” and “Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory” all marked double-digit gains over prior seasons and the “16 and Pregnant”/”Teen Mom” franchise popped some good numbers.

New drama “Teen Wolf” isn’t a breakout hit but was cable’s No. 4 scripted skein for the quarter in persons 12-34.

For TNT, which led all cablers in adults 18-49 and 25-54, the NBA Playoffs set cable records as total viewers for the net’s coverage grew year to year by about 30% to 5.53 million. Hoop action, led by the Eastern Conference finals between Miami and Chicago, accounted for the quarter’s top six telecasts among adults 18-49.

The Turner net also had reason to be pleased with the good start for drama series “Falling Skies,” whose first two airings averaged about 5.1 million viewers. New lawyer drama “Franklin and Bash” has rallied after a so-so start, hitting demo highs with its fourth outing last week, and the fourth season of “Leverage” was solid in its return.

USA, meanwhile, made it 20 consecutive quarters as cable’s most-watched ad-supported entertainment network in total viewers — even if it did finally see its adults 25-54 winning streak come to an end.

The net was led by “WWE Raw” and also got great mileage out of crime drama repeats like “NCIS” and “Law and Order: SVU.” Its core originals dramas including “White Collar” and “Covert Affairs” also continued to deliver solid 25-54 numbers, even if top-dog “Burn Notice” wasn’t quite as hot as last year in kicking off its fourth season late in the quarter.

AMC was paced by modest drama success “The Killing” and also scored with classic pics including “Midway” on Memorial Day and miniseries “Lonesome Dove.”

FX, whose top series was “Justified,” finished strong courtesy of high-rated airings of theatricals “Taken” and “X2: X-Men United” in June.

Bravo rode its various “Real Housewives” skeins and rising numbers for season three of “Top Chef Masters” to post its fifth straight quarter of year-over-year growth in demos.

ABC Family continues to hit a bull’s eye with the 12-34 crowd, as its “Pretty Little Liars,” newbie “Switched at Birth” and vet “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” stood as the demo’s top three scripted shows on cable for the quarter.

Fox News Channel (419,000 adults 25-54, 1.82 million viewers overall) remained well ahead of its news rivals MSNBC (265,000, 798,000) and CNN (221,000, 685,000) but the gap closed some as the leader dropped 12% in the demo while MSNBC rose 10% and CNN grew by 26%. FNC, the most-watched newsie for 38 consecutive quarters, ranked fifth among all cable channels in total viewers, and its “O’Reilly Factor” continues to dominate news in the 8 o’clock hour (636,000 adults 25-4, 2.82 million viewers overall).

Other notes for the quarter:

Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” topped 8 million viewers on two occasions (a larger aud than any other series), and the net’s “Kids Choice Awards” was the top kudocast (8.13 million); thanks to “Hardcore Pawn” and newcomer “Storage Wars,” TruTV posted its strongest second quarter yet in adults 18-49 (503,000) while lowering its median age to 44; OWN was roughly flat in total viewers (273,000) and down a bit in key demos vs. the perf of Discovery Health a year ago; Investigation Discovery, which has been gradually growing its aud over the years, really shot up in the second quarter, cracking the cable top 40 by posting gains of 70% in total viewers (508,000 vs. 298,000) and nearly that in both 18-49 (to 184,000) and 25-54 (to 232,000); TV Land held steady in total viewers (26th place, 822,000) but was down in key demos as signature show “Hot in Cleveland” declined in its second season and rookie “Happily Divorced” has performed modestly; E! dipped in key demos but remains a top-20 cabler in adults 18-34 and landed in the top 10 in women 18-34, a demo it led during Sunday’s 10 p.m. hour (“Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” “Khloe and Lamar”) for the quarter; Oxygen, whose “Glee Project” hasn’t done much, was down about 10% in both 18-49 and total viewers but grew 13% in 18-34 (to 117,000); series highs for “Pair of Kings” and “Zeke and Luther” helped Disney XD post gains in key kid demos, which it’s done with every quarter since its early 2009 launch.

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