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Football, Zombies Score in Nov. Ratings

ESPN scored another big monthly ratings win on the strength of NFL Monday Night Football and college-football telecasts.

The sports network posted a 24% primetime ratings increase during the month of November to lead all cable networks according to Nielsen.

ESPN averaged 3.7 million viewers during the period of Oct. 27 through Nov. 30, topping Fox News Channel, which capitalized on breaking-news coverage of the Ferguson, Mo., police riots to finish second with 2 million viewers, up 4% from the same period in 2013.

ESPN has won the last three monthly primetime ratings races and is poised to finish as the most-watched network during the fourth quarter. ESPN was also the top choice among viewers in several other key demos including adults 18-34, adults 25-54 and adults 18-49, according to Nielsen.

AMC, riding thriller ratings from cable’s most watched series The Walking Dead, was third with 1.8 million viewers, up 7%, followed by Hallmark Channel, whose lineup of holiday-themed movies and specials garnered 1.7 million viewers and which rose 1% in the primetime ratings ranks from the previous year.

Disney Channel fell 19% year to year to finish in fifth place with 1.7 million viewers, followed by TBS (1.6 million viewers, down 11%); USA Network (1.6 million, down 13%); Discovery Channel (1.3 million, up 3%); History (1.3 million, down 18%) and FX (1.2 million, down 17%).

On a total-day basis, Nickelodeon barely outdistanced ESPN for top honors, despite posting a 24% audience decline from November 2013.

Nickelodeon drew 1.38 million viewers on average, followed by ESPN’s 1.37 million, which was up 8% from the previous year. Disney Channel (1.2 million viewers, down 14%); Fox News (1.2 million, up 3%) and Adult Swim (1 million viewers, down 19%) rounded out the top five networks on a total-day basis.

On the news front, the events surrounding the controversial police shooting in Ferguson, Mo., helped propel both CNN and HLN to double-digit primetime, total-viewer increases during the month. CNN posted a 35% increase in generating 637,000 primetime viewers, second only to Fox’s 2 million viewers. HLN’s 349,000 primetime viewers rose 24% from last year. MSNBC’s 593,000 viewers was down 6% year to year.

ESPN’s four Monday Night Football NFL telecasts and its Nov. 29 Auburn-Alabama primetime college football game comprised half of the top 10 most-watched shows for the month, with AMC’s The Walking Dead securing the other five slots.