ESPN, USA Cable Ratings Winners

A double helping of National Football League games powered ESPN to the top of last week’s cable Nielsen standings.

The sports network pulled in an 8.7 rating for its Dec. 21 game between the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts. A special Saturday game between the New York Jets and New England Patriots attracted a 5.1. The games were two top-rated cable shows for the week ended Dec. 21, according to Nielsen Media Research. ESPN finished with a 2.5 average rating in prime time and 2.99 million viewers.

USA Network also had a strong week, notching a 1.9 average in prime with 2.2 million viewers. Its new acquired series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is catching on with viewers. A Dec. 20 episode recorded a 3.0 and two other episodes pulled in a 2.9.

Rounding out the top five were Nickelodeon, with a 1.9 rating and 2.1 million viewers; TBS Superstation, with a 1.8 rating and 2.2 million viewers; and TNT, a 1.8 rating and 2 million viewers.

Buoyed by holiday-themed programming, both ABC Family and the Hallmark Channel enjoyed an uptick in ratings last week. ABC Family finished the week with a 1.1 average rating in prime and 1.4 million viewers and the Hallmark Channel turned in a 1.0 rating with 777,000 viewers.