Buttressed by strong Monday Night Football deliveries, ESPN is on track to win its second straight monthly ratings race. Through Oct. 25, the sports network averaged 3.73 million total viewers in prime time, a 28 percent improvement over its year-ago delivery (2.92 million).
Per Nielsen ratings data, ESPN swept the three core TV demos, drawing 1.9 million adults 25-54 (an increase of 31 percent versus October 2008), while serving up 1.88 million viewers 18-49, up 28 percent from 1.47 million. The net also drew 855,000 viewers 18-34, a 21 percent lift from 703,000.
ESPN started the month on a tear, as the Oct. 5 installment of MNF set the record as the most-watched telecast in cable TV history, drawing 21.9 million total viewers. Wrangler
shill/Vikings QB Brett Favre led the Minnesota Vikings to a 30-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers, establishing bragging rights over the NFC North and knocking off the previous record of 18.6 million viewers, set by ESPN on Sept. 15, 2008 (Eagles-Cowboys).
Through the first six weeks of the 2009-10 NFL season, ESPN’s MNF coverage is averaging 15 million total viewers.
ESPN also drew big numbers with the Sept. 28 MNF telecast, a Cowboys-Panthers tilt that delivered 15.7 million viewers. On Oct. 19, the Chargers and Broncos AFC West grudge match drew 13.5 million viewers, while Jets-Dolphins delivered 13.1 million viewers on the night of the 12th.
Bristol held off a charge by TBS, which hosted its third season of postseason baseball. The Turner net’s slate of 18 MLB playoff games averaged 5.15 million viewers, down 4 percent from the 5.38 million viewers it drew a year ago, when it carried 22 postseason games.
All told, TBS averaged 3.24 million viewers in prime, a drop of 11 percent from the 3.64 million it drew in October 2008. TBS took second among the three demos, averaging 1.58 million viewers 18-49 (down 10 percent), 1.52 million adults 25-54 (down 13 percent) and 787,000 viewers 18-34 (off 5 percent).
On the month, TBS accounted for six of the top 10 most-watched programs on ad-supported cable, setting its high-water mark with Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. On Oct. 21, the Phillies advanced to the World Series with a 10-4 win over the Dodgers, in a Wednesday night clincher that was seen by a TBS audience of 8 million viewers.
USA Network took third place, averaging 2.93 million total viewers, a 3 percent uptick from last October’s 2.83 million. Although the network saw declines in the demos, USA took third across the board, drawing 1.29 million adults 25-54 (down 4 percent), 1.19 million viewers 18-49 (down 13 percent from its year-ago 1.38 million) and 541,000 18-34s, a drop of 15 percent.
USA got the biggest lift of the month on Friday, Oct. 23, as a new episode of Monk drew 5.42 million viewers before leading into the series premiere of White Collar (5.4 million). In a remarkable show of retention, White Collar held onto 99.6 percent of its 9 p.m. lead-in.
Fox News Channel grabbed fourth place, drawing a nightly crowd of 2.16 million viewers, of which 563,000 were members of the 25-54 demo. While FNC dropped 36 percent in both areas, its 2008 numbers were inflated by the race for the White House.
In a head-to-head comparison with the most recent non-election year, FNC actually grew 55 percent versus October 2007, when it averaged 1.4 million total viewers. In the core news demo, Fox News grew 66 percent versus the same period two years ago, when it averaged 340,000 adults 25-54.
Taking fifth in October prime was Nick at Nite, with 1.71 million viewers, down 3 percent from 1.75 million.