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Disney Channel tops in ratings race

Network nabs 2.694 million total viewers

For the first time, commercial-free Disney Channel beat all the ad-supported cable networks in primetime, averaging 2.694 million total viewers.

The Mouse cabler beat second-place USA in 2007 by only 15,000 total viewers.

Disney Channel was not only the top Nielsen dog but delivered more average viewers than any other first-place network in the history of cable TV.

The premiere of “Disney’s High School Musical 2” on Aug. 17 ended up with 18.64 million viewers (including TiVo watchers), the No. 1 cablecast of all time, and hit Disney series like “Hannah Montana” and “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” helped to swell the network’s numbers.

USA was able to claim a decisive first place among advertiser-supported cable networks, boasting that it has now harvested more primetime viewers each year during the past four years in total viewers and the three key adult demos (25-54, 18-49 and 18-34).

TNT came in third behind Disney and USA in total viewers, but it was down by 7% from those of 2006 in primetime. The total viewer numbers for ESPN, in fourth place, dropped by 11% from last year’s, but fifth-place TBS was up by 12% from 2006.

Below the top five, the networks that shot up by double digits year to year in total primetime viewers, in order of their over-all finish, are: A&E (up 20%), Discovery Channel (up 13%), Court TV (up 27%), TLC (up 14%), VH1 (up 19%), Bravo (up 10%) and MSNBC (up 32%).

Also, E! Entertainment TV (up 10%), Lifetime Movie Network (up 15%), CNN Headline News (up 15%), National Geographic Channel (up 20%), Oxygen (up 19%) and Toon Disney (up 17%).

And CNBC (up 35%), Discovery Science (up 22%), Nicktoons (up 24%), G4 (up 17%), Golf Channel (up 33%), Discovery Times (up 91%) and Style (up 55%).

Plus History Intl. (up 54%), Military Channel (up 50%), BBC America (up 15%), ESPN News (up 20%), VH1 Classic (up 16%) and Fuse (up 56%).

Falling off year-to-year in double digits in primetime are: Cartoon Network (down 10%), Nick at Nite (down 12%), GSN (down 13%), TV Guide Network (down 10%), and NFL Network (down 60%).