‘Duck Dynasty,’ Bates Motel’ Drive A&E to Strong Quarter

TNT tops spring in demos, USA in total viewers; OWN, Animal Planet set network records

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TNT and USA split bragging-rights honors as the top cable networks in the second quarter, but the standout performer was A&E.

In an example of how a couple of shows can tilt the scales in a network’s favor, A&E surged nearly 20% from last year behind monster reality hit “Duck Dynasty” and successful scripted newcomer “Bates Motel.”

The spring ratings book was also a good one for some of the more femme-focused networks, as Lifetime, HGTV, Oxygen, WE and OWN were among the top-50 gainers in key demos, according to Nielsen.

Looking at the numbers, A&E ranked among the top five cable networks in both adults 18-49 and 25-54 — rising 17% in both categories — while placing sixth in total viewers (up 19%).

“Duck Dynasty” was far and away the No. 1 program in all categories, including adults 18-49 (7.51 million or 5.9 rating) and total viewers (13 million), according to live-plus 7 Nielsen data.

“Bates Motel,” meanwhile, averaged 2.62 million adults 18-49 (2.1 rating) to stand as cable’s No. 1 scripted series and No. 3 overall (behind “Duck Dynasty” and MTV’s “Teen Mom”). Another A&E drama, “Longmire,” placed in the top five among all cable series in total viewers (4.72 million).

TNT ruled in key demos, rising 2% in adults 18-49 and 5% in adults 25-54 vs. last year. The net was buoyed by the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals between Miami and Indiana, which placed four of its seven games among the quarter’s top 10 telecasts in the demo.

On the series side, “Rizzoli & Isles” got its season off to a hot start last month while “Falling Skies” — recently renewed for a fourth season — ranked as cable’s No. 1 scripted series in 18-49 and 25-54.

USA declined a bit but remained in the top three in both adults 18-49 and 25-54 while edging past TNT to make it 28 consecutive quarters as the most-watched basic cable network overall. Driving the network were original series “Burn Notice” (5.8 million), “Royal Pains” (5.2 million) and newbie “Graceland” (4.3 million) as well wrestling’s “WWE Raw” (4.6 million).

In total viewers, USA (2.69 million, down 6% from last year) was followed by TNT (2.66 million, up 4%), Disney (2.40 million, up 2%), History (2.06 million, down 20%), Fox News (1.86 million, up 6%), A&E (1.83 million, up 19%), TBS (1.80 million, up 2%), Adult Swim (1.48 million, up 6%), ESPN (1.35 million, down 32%) and Nick at Nite (1.32 million, up 40%).

In adults 18-49, TNT (1.25 million, up 2%) was followed by TBS (987,000, up 1%), USA (980,000, down 9%), A&E (833,000, up 17%), History (773,000, down 28%), Adult Swim (761,000, up 17%), FX (681,000, down 5%), Discovery (616,000, down 3%), ESPN (603,000, down 40%) and Bravo (526,000, down 12%)

And the top 10 in adults 25-54 were TNT (1.25 million, up 5%), USA (1.04 million, down 8%), TBS (973,000, up 1%), History (913,000, down 26%), A&E (892,000, up 17%), Discovery (697,000, up 2%), FX (653,000, down 4%), ESPN (594,000, down 38%), Bravo (564,000, down 9%) and Food (551,000, down 12%).

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The declines for History were largely due to its gargantuan numbers in the year-ago quarter for the miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys.” (Its big longform in 2013 to date was “The Bible,” which wrapped on the final day of the first quarter.)

Lifetime moved up to 12th in the 18-49 rankings and sixth among women 18-49, even though new series “Devious Maids” got off to a modest start. “Dance Moms” and “Preacher’s Daughters” were solid performers and the net claimed the quarter’s top two movie telecasts across cable in key women demos with “Anna Nicole” and “Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret.”

Other top-50 sports/entertainment network gainers in adults 18-49 were HGTV (#19 in 18-49, up 5% from last year), AMC (#20, up 2%), Nick at Nite (#21, up 27%), Animal Planet (#26, up 9%), NBC Sports (#27, up 13%), Oxygen (#30, up 6%), CMT (#37, up 23%), WE (#39, up 33%), OWN (#42, up 21%), H2 (#44, up 10%), BBCA (#45, up 11%), TV1 (#49, up 25%), GSN (#50, up 49%).

And others to decline by more than 10% in 18-49: Family (#11 in 18-49, down 12%), Food (#13, down 15%), Comedy (#16, down 14%), Syfy (#17, down 17%), TRU (#24, down 22%), E! (#28, down 14%), ESPN2 (#38, down 12%), NickJr (#41, down 36%), Hallmark (#46, down 13%) and BIO (#47, down 11%).

For OWN, this reps the network’s best delivery in any quarter since it launched in January 2011. Thanks in part to a good start for Tyler Perry drama “The Haves and the Have Nots” — OWN’s top-rated series launch to date — the network doubled its delivery of women 25-54 this quarter.

Also enjoying its best quarter ever was Animal Planet, whose “Mermaids: The New Evidence” became the network’s most-watched telecast of all time with 3.6 million tuning in. “River Monsters,” Animal Planet’s top-performing series, pulled in 1.8 million for its episodes during the quarter, peaking with a record 2.2 million for its season finale.

Discovery was roughly flat or up a bit year to year in most categories, ranking in the top 10 and powered by the June 23 special “Skywire with Nik Wallenda.” The program drew 10.68 million viewers, and finished behind only “Duck Dynasty” as the No. 2 entertainment program for the quarter in 18-49 (4.52 million or 3.6 rating).

Oxygen delivered its best-ever second-quarter numbers, paced by originals “Bad Ink,” “Find Me My Man,” “I’m Having Their Baby,” “Snapped” and “Bad Girls Club.”