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Feb. Ratings Boom for Basic’s Top 10

February was a strong ratings month for basic cable’s top 10 networks in primetime.

Eight of the group, which was headed by Turner Network Television, posted gains, while two lost ground.

The drama network set the pace overall with a 2.2 household-rating average from Jan. 31-Feb. 27, according to a Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data, a 5% jump from the 2.1 it recorded last February (Jan. 26-Feb. 29 on the measurement company’s calendar).

USA Network, which was down 10%, was second with a 1.9 average, ahead of Nick at Nite’s 1.8. The retro sitcom purveyor had not been spun off from sister network and channel-sharer Nickelodeon until the second quarter of 2004.

Disney Channel was fourth, matching its 1.7 household mark from the year-earlier period, while Cartoon Network jumped up 14% to a 1.6.

Rounding out the top 10: Lifetime Television, up 7% to a 1.5; Fox News Channel, up 17%, and TBS, off 7%, both to a 1.4; and ESPN and Spike TV, which grew 9% and 33%, respectively, each with a 1.2.

Measured on a total-programming-day basis, Nick, despite a flat month, was the easy victor with a 1.9 mark, finishing 0.5 points ahead of Nick at Nite. TNT grew 8% to a 1.3 for third. Cartoon, advancing 20% to a 1.2, was fourth, while Disney, down 8% to a 1.1 average, was fifth.

TNT’s coverage of the National Basketball Association All-Star Game Feb. 20 was the highest-rated basic-cable show for the month, averaging a 6.0 household rating, down from a 6.2 mark for the 2004 event. Although setting the pace for cable last month with nearly 8.1 million viewers two-plus, the 2005 contest was the lowest-rated in the game’s history.

Its National Football League counterpart, the Pro Bowl, tackled a 5.1 rating on ESPN Feb. 13 to finish second for the month.

Other programs in the top 10: the pregame to the NBA All-Star contest; Fox News’ coverage of President Bush’s State of the Union address; Comedy Central’s Blue Collar 2 special; an installment of USA’s Monk; and several episodes of Spike’s presentation of WWE Raw.