USA Network ascended to the top of the cable Nielsen charts for the first quarter, edging out general entertainment rival TNT by a slim 16,000 viewers in prime. USA averaged 2.426 million viewers in prime, while TNT attracted 2.410 million viewers.
USA's marks climbed 28% compared to a year ago and TNT was up 3%. For its part, TNT won the quarter in the key 18-49 and 25-54 demos.
Rounding out the top five were Nickelodeon (2.289 million viewers, up 5%); TBS Superstation (1.927 million viewers, down 1%) and Lifetime (1.659 million viewers, down 10%).
Among channels making gains were Discovery (up 27%); ABC Family (up 39%); History Channel (up 25%) and Hallmark Channel (up 52%).
The cable news nets' ratings dipped dramatically compared to a year ago, no surprise since the war in Iraq and the lead-up to the war drove ratings sky high.
TNT boasts the three most-watched programs in the first quarter, the 2004 NBA All Star Game (8.19 million), NBA All Star Pre-Game Show (6.845 million viewers), and the Budweiser Shootout (6.563 million viewers).
USA's Monk earned the highest rating for a scripted show with 6.267 million viewers on Jan. 30.