On the continued strength of wrestling and a huge summer showing of Pirates of the Caribbean, USA ranked as the most-viewed cable network in prime during third quarter with an average 2.75 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. USA also ranked first in viewers 18-49 with 1.2 million and 25-54 with 1.2 million.
The NBC Universal-owned general entertainment cable network is returning to number one status after falling behind TNT during second quarter when TNT was running basketball. USA was strong on several nights of the week during third quarter with Monday Night Raw wrestling programming on Mondays, and paired originals Monk and Psych on Fridays, and the The 4400 and The Dead Zone on Sundays.
Wrestling, in particular, has helped boost USA's ratings for the past year since it returned to the network in Oct. after a five-year hiatus on MTV Networks male-targeting cable channel Spike. But USA also got a huge boost from its July 15 showing of Pirates of the Caribbean, which pulled in 7.4 million viewers.
After non ad-supported Disney with 2.68 million viewers, TNT took second for the quarter with an average 2.58 million viewers in prime. The network saw a strong return of its sophomore original The Closer, which ranked as ad-supported cable's top series in total viewers and households. TNT will bring the show back as a two-hour special in December.
The top three programs for the quarter were all Monday night football games on ESPN, which ranked third for the quarter with 2.04 million total viewers. The most viewed was Sept. 18th's Steelers/Jaguars game, which pulled in an average 13.3 million total viewers between 8:30 and 11:40 p.m. The game helped ESPN rank as the most viewed cable network for the week which ended Sept. 24, with an average 2.99 million viewers.