Summertime shines for USA Network

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Lifetime Television remained in first place, but it's the second-place
finish by USA Network that was the most interesting performance in cable's prime
time Nielsen Media Research households during July.

Lifetime scored a 2.0 for the ratings calendar ended Monday, but that's off 5
percent from the same period last year.

USA, however, bested both Turner Network Television and TBS Superstation with a 1.9, a 12 percent gain.

That's notable because the beleaguered network has successfully bet heavily
on two new original series, Monk and The Dead Zone, both of which
have regularly scored 3.0 and better. (USA president Doug Herzog gets to keep his
job.)

Lifetime's July numbers are weak in part because the network debuted new
episodes of its original series only last weekend, rather than earlier in July,
as it did last year. Still, the network showed a sharp 13 percent drop in adults
18 through 34.

TNT's ratings rose 13 percent to a 1.8, while TBS stayed flat at a 1.7.

Despite a lot of posturing, the July ratings battle among the cable news
networks still looks about the same.

As it has been since January, Fox News Channel was the highest-rated cable
net, posting a 1.1 average in prime, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's
a 38 percent improvement over a year ago.

CNN also made positive gains, with a 0.9 average, that is 29 percent better
than last year's marks. Third-placed MSNBC was flat year-to-year with a 0.4
prime time average.

MSNBC's new prime time lineup, anchored by its franchise star Phil Donahue,
didn't lift nighttime ratings, but has helped perk up household delivery 35
percent compared to July 2001.

CNBC, meanwhile, continued its ratings free fall, dropping 50 percent to a
0.2 in prime. Despite some new prime time shows, the financial news net has lost
nearly half its audience; household delivery is down 43 percent to 185,000 homes
compared to last July.

Big losers for the quarter include  SoapNet (off 50 percent), American
Movie Classics (off 30 percent) Travel Channel (off 25 percent) and Discovery
Channel (off 25 percent).

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