Disney Channel Scores Cable’s Top Q3 Ratings

Still enjoying the lift provided High School Musical 2, Disney Channel zoomed to the No. 1 spot in the primetime ratings in the third quarter, amassing the biggest audience in cable history on record for that three-month period, officials said Tuesday.

Disney Channel averaged a record-breaking 3.2 million total viewers, 19% ahead of second-ranked USA Network, which averaged 2.7 million viewers, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Disney Channel’s third-quarter viewership was cable's second largest for any quarter ever, behind only sister service ESPN averaged 3.3 million in the fourth quarter last year, when it rode the strength of its college football coverage and its first campaign carrying the National Football League’s Monday Night Football franchise,

During the third quarter, Disney Channel’s Aug. 17 debut of High School Musical 2 was the No. 1 cable telecast of all-time in total viewers, with 18.6 million, a total reflecting live, plus seven-day measurement. In its premiere telecast that night, HSM2 garnered 17.2 million watchers.

Disney Channel posted a 2.5 household rating in the third quarter, up 9% from the same quarter last year, while second-place USA registered a 2.1 rating in primetime for the quarter, a 5% dip.

TNT was in third place in the primetime horse race, with a 2.0 rating, down 9% from the year-ago period. ESPN was fourth, with a 1.7 rating, flat compared with the 2006 span.

There was a tie for fifth place, between TBS and Lifetime Television, each with a 1.3 rating. TBS was flat versus last year, while Lifetime was down 13%. They were followed by Fox News Channel, with a 1.2 rating, off 8%.

Cartoon Network, HGTV, Court TV and Hallmark Channel each garnered a 1.1 primetime rating. Cartoon dropped 21% from the year-ago quarter, while Hallmark Channel slipped 15%. Court TV and HGTV were up 38% and 10%, respectively.

A&E Network, Nick at Nite, FX, Spike TV, Discovery Channel and Sci Fi Channel each averaged a 1.0 rating. A&E, FX and Discovery Channel were all flat. Nick at Nite dropped 17%, while Sci Fi Channel was down 18%.

In the third quarter the biggest primetime gainers, all up 100%, were CNBC, Discovery Times, ESPNews, The Golf Channel, and The Military Channel. CNBC, Discovery Times, ESPNews, Golf Channel and The Military Channel all of which grew 100% to a 0.2. Fuse also recorded a 100% advance to a 0.1 mark.

The big losers in the quarter were: SoapNet, down 33% to a 0.4; ESPN Classic, a 50% decrease to a 0.1; GSN, off 50% to a 0.2; TV Guide Network, a 33% drop to a 0.2; and The Weather Channel, down 33% to a 0.2.