USA Network is getting a positive ratings jolt in prime with new off-net star Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.
The network added the hit Dick Wolf drama to its daily lineup in September and saw an immediate Nielsen bump up.
At 8 p.m. ET on USA, SVU
is averaging a 2.0 rating in November, 25% better than the time slot's occupant last year. And the 11 p.m. strip is pulling in a hearty 1.5 rating, a 47% improvement. As a result, USA's prime time Nielsen marks are perking up. The net is getting similar results on Saturday nights.
Rival cable net TNT, which carries off-nets of the original Law & Order
strand, boasts even better results. Its Law & Order
telecasts routinely collect ratings above a 3.0. An interesting slice of research from TNT suggests that these aren't all the same people tuning in: The network says the average Law & Order
viewer watches only nine episodes per year.
What's more, the three breeds of Law & Order, which also include Law & Order: Criminal Intent, are doing heavy lifting on NBC's schedule this fall—Law & Order-brand series make up almost a third of NBC's schedule. The 100th episode of SVU
recently pulled in 14 million viewers, the drama's biggest audience since last April.
USA is surprised that SVU
took off as fast as it did. Executive Vice President and General Manager Michele Ganeless has a theory: "More Law & Order
on more channels," she observed, "seems to raise networks across the board."
also gives USA a fresh anchor for its prime time schedule. The drama was USA's first off-net acquisition in several years, and the network is paying handsomely for it, about $1.3 million per episode.
In contrast, cable's other new off-net this fall, The West Wing
on Bravo, sold for $1.6 million an episode and averages below a 1.0 rating. And, unlike USA's other off-net workhorses JAG
and Walker, Texas Ranger, which can pop a good rating, SVU
draws a younger audience, among the 18-49 and 25-54 demos.