NBA a winner for cablers

TNT, ESPN score with playoffs; Fox News leads competish

NEW YORK — NBA Playoffs’ slam-dunks spilled beyond the court last week to the cable networks that carry postseason games, propelling TNT and ESPN to double-digit gains in total viewers in the primetime Nielsens.

TNT finished No. 1 among all basic-cable networks overall, capturing two of the top-three highest-rated shows in basic cable for the week, the Lakers-Spurs game on May 13 (7.65-million total viewers) and the Kings-Mavericks game Saturday (5.2 million).

(No. 2 for the week was TNN’s coverage of the second hour of World Wrestling Entertainment “Raw” on May 12, with 5.34 million total viewers.)

In addition to TNT and ESPN, three other top-10 networks grew by double digits in primetime the week of May 12-18 compared with the same period last year: USA, by 23%, to finish No. 3 overall; Fox News Channel, by 63%, for No. 7; and TLC, by 20%, tied for 10th place.

Fox News Channel dominated its all-news competitors in primetime. CNN, tied for 13th, grew by only 4%, and MSNBC, tied for 40th, went up by 6%.

USA got a big lift from back-to-back runs of “Liar Liar” on Sunday, which averaged more than 4 million total viewers to become the highest-rated movie on basic cable for the week. The umpteenth run of “Pretty Woman” on TBS was right behind “Liar Liar,” averaging 3.8 million total viewers Sunday.

TNT, again with a solid assist from the NBA, ended up a runaway winner in primetime across the three major demographic categories: people 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54.

The other double-digit primetime gainers week to week, in order of their ranking, were: Sci Fi Channel (up 10%), Court TV (up 31%), HGTV (up 19%), AMC (up 40%), Food Network (up 33%), Animal Planet (up 34%) and Hallmark Channel (up 20%).

Also, Lifetime Movie Network (35%), Soap Net (up 87%), VH1 (up 55%), Travel Channel (up 51%), Game Show Channel (up 27%), Speed Channel (up 77%), Toon Disney (up 26%) and Country Music TV (up 14%).

By contrast, five of the top 10-rated networks fell off by double digits in primetime for the week, led by second place Nickelodeon/Nick at Night, which dropped by 12% in total viewers.

TBS and Lifetime tied for fifth place in primetime, but TBS slipped by 18% and Lifetime plunged by 33% from the same week last year. Eighth-place FX was down by 15%, and 10th-place A&E by 14%.

The rest of the underachievers, again in order of their total ranking, were: Discovery Channel (down by 20%), ABC Family (down by 48%), ESPN2 (down by 24%), WGN (down by 20%), TV Guide Channel (down by 20%), Bravo (down by 24%) and CNBC (down by 31%.

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