TBS, USA Lead the Way Among Top-Rated Cable Nets of 2013

Turner net breaks through with demo victory; NBCU channel stays on top in total viewers

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USA is looking like it will once again win a calendar year in total viewers, but a rising TBS has surpassed it among young adults for the first time.

TBS is on pace to lead ad-supported cable in primetime for the year in adults 18-49, ending USA’s seven-year winning streak, according to preliminary Nielsen estimates through Dec. 8. TBS will also finish on top in adults 18-34 (narrowly over USA) for a second straight year.

USA maintains its lock as the most popular ad-supported cabler in total viewers, winning for an eighth straight year. It’s also on track to prevail in adults 25-54 (with TBS a close second).

Although both TBS and USA had some good performers among original programs in 2013, it’s the likes of wrestling and off-net acquisitions doing much of the heavy lifting. Neither has one of the top 10 original series for the year in either adults 18-49 or 25-54.

At TBS, repeats of “The Big Bang Theory” remained red hot, ruling as basic cable’s No. 1 off-net series for the third consecutive year. “Big Bang” also helped launch new TBS originals like hidden-camera comedy “Deal With It” (2.2 million viewers in Live+7), geeky competition series “King of the Nerds” (1.8 million) and workplace sitcom “Ground Floor” (1.7 million).

TBS’ top original scripted series were “Cougar Town” in its first year on the net (and fourth overall), averaging 2.6 million viewers in Live+7. Also drawing sizable auds were second-year original comedies “Sullivan & Son” (2.4 million) and “Men at Work” (1.9 million).

At USA, the year-round dynamo “WWE Raw” averaged a big 4.61 million viewers, helping pin down Monday night for the net.

USA also had another good summer, as its “Burn Notice” (5.68 million), “Royal Pains” (5.30 million), “Suits” (5.28 million) and newcomer “Graceland” (4.01 million) were among the 10 most-watched scripted series on basic cable. It also airs popular off-net dramas like “NCIS” and “Law & Order: SVU.”

USA dabbled in comedy in 2013, and has seen improved ratings of late for acquired series “Modern Family.” In its most recent week, it averaged a best-yet 855,000 adults 18-49 — 73% above the show’s premiere week.

For the year, USA is tracking to be down 4% in adults 18-49 and 8% in total viewers. TBS is up 2% in the demo and 5% in overall viewers.

Preliminary network averages in adults 18-49: TBS (1.08 million, 0.85 rating), USA (1.05 million, 0.83 rating), ESPN (932,000, 0.73 rating), TNT (854,000, 0.67 rating), FX (814,000, 0.64 rating). Closely outside the top 5, and with a chance to perhaps move up in the final numbers, is A&E (812,000, 0.64 rating), whose “Duck Dynasty Christmas Special” aired after the cutoff for the preliminary numbers.

In total viewers, the leaders are: USA (2.75 million), History (2.16 million), TNT (2.13 million), TBS (2.07 million) and ESPN (2.05 million).

Disney Channel, which isn’t typically included in rankings of ad-supported cable networks because it doesn’t accept ads, was the No. 2 basic cable network for the year in total viewers with 2.49 million

In preliminary “most current” estimates from Nielsen, the top original cable series of the year in total viewers are: AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (16.16 million), A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” (13.37 million), History’s limited-run “The Bible” (13.19m), AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (8.48m), TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” (8.33m), FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (7.09m), TNT’s “Major Crimes” (6.45m), A&E’s “Longmire” (5.95m), FX’s “American Horror Story” (5.94m) and History’s “Vikings” (5.93m).

In adults 18-49 rating, they are: AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (8.4), A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” (6.0), AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (4.4), FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” (3.8), History’s “The Bible” (3.4), FX’s “American Horror Story” (3.4), AMC’s “Talking Dead” (2.5), MTV’s “Teen Mom II” (2.2) and VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta,” History’s “The Vikings” and A&E’s “Bates Motel” (all at 2.1).