‘NCIS’ marathon scores ratings touchdown

New Year's Day event is boon for USA Network

NCIS” has turned into USA Network’s own Rose Bowl.

The cable net’s “NCIS” marathon on New Year’s Day helped give USA its second-highest rated day ever. From 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. the following day, USA averaged 3.1 million viewers.

USA’s highest-rated day ever? That came on Jan. 2, 2010 — when another “NCIS” marathon gave USA a full-day average of 3.15 million viewers.

Clearly the investment in “NCIS” has paid off bigtime for USA, which paid CBS TV Distribution a bargain $1 million for the show. Those stellar “NCIS” numbers are one reason that USA stepped up just weeks after the fall launch of spinoff “NCIS: Los Angeles” in 2009, preemptively paying CBS $2.5 million a seg to lock that show up too.

“There’s a tone to it that fits our brand,” said USA program research veepee Ted Linhart. “It’s not too heavy but heavy when it needs to be and has a good sense of humor, which is something I think a lot of people don’t realize. It’s easy to watch and uplifting.”

Linhart said USA has carved out a niche on New Year’s Day (and the day after) as a programming alternative to the college bowl games. In years past, the cabler has run marathons of shows such as “Monk.” But “NCIS” is a whole different beast.

CBS TV Distribution topper John Nogawski couldn’t help but gloat about the show’s boffo perf.

“‘NCIS’s” performance just goes to show that one of the best investments a cable network can make is acquiring a proven hit series,” he said.

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