4400 Propels USA to 2.5

Led by the record-setting debut of limited series The 4400, USA Network abducted the most basic-cable viewers in primetime last week.

The general-entertainment service averaged a 2.5 household rating July 5-11, bolstered by the 5.7 household mark July 11 for The 4400, a show about 4,400 people returned to Earth after being taken by aliens

USA officials said the show was the highest-rated and most-watched series debut -- with some 7.4 million viewers -- in the history of the medium, surpassing the 4.7 mark registered by the bow of its The Dead Zone June 16, 2002.

The network was also boosted by a 3.7 for the July 9 premiere of an installment of quirky detective series Monk, which ranked as the fifth-highest show that week, as well as a 3.2 for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit when it served as an 8 p.m.-9 p.m. lead-in to The 4400.

Turner Network Television was second for the week, averaging a 2.1., while Disney Channel was third with a 1.8 mark, according to a Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Knotted in the fourth position for that week, all with 1.5 averages, were TBS, Nick at Nite, Lifetime Television and Turner South, the latter again benefiting from its coverage of the Atlanta Braves, the Major League Baseball franchise owned by the network’s parent, Time Warner Inc.

Rounding out the top 10 for the span: Cartoon Network with a 1.4 and Fox News Channel and Sci Fi Channel, each with a 1.2.

A host of networks -- ABC Family, ESPN, A&E Network, FX, MTV: Music Television and Hallmark Channel -- narrowly missed the top 10, with each scoring a 1.1 for the period.

Conspicuous by its absence was kids’ kingpin and top-10 primetime fixture Nickelodeon, which, due to a recent rules change by Nielsen, no longer has its own ranking in the daypart.

After MTV Networks requested that Nielsen rank Nick and channel-space-sharer sister service Nick at Nite as separate services beginning in the recently completed second quarter, a host of programmers expressed their frustration over the distinct rankings and, in a June 16 letter to the measurement company, requested that a service be required to offer programming for more than 50% of the daypart to be ranked therein.

Nielsen complied, and Nick -- which only airs nine hours out of 21 per week in primetime -- will no longer be listed there.

On a total-day basis, though, Nick was in a familiar spot from July 5-11: atop the pack, this time with a 1.9 average. That compared with a 1.3 for Cartoon and a 1.2 apiece for Nick at Nite, Disney and TNT.