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May Showers for Basic Cable

Hoops, there it was. TNT's coverage of the National Basketball Association playoffs lifted it to the top of the primetime ratings race among cable networks in May.

The drama network placed 21 NBA games among the 91 highest-rated shows for the month, including the top two. That gave TNT a 2.1 household rating from April 30 through May 27, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Despite holding the top spot, TNT sustained a 19% drop as its NBA numbers this year didn't measure up to the 2006 playoff results.

TNT wasn't alone in the hole, as May didn't prove merry for most of basic cable's upper echelon. In fact, of the networks that held or shared a piece of the top 10, only three services posted gains in May.

USA Network was second for the period, down 10% to a 1.9, ahead of Disney Channel's 1.8 average, which was off 5% from a 1.9. ESPN, also suffering from lower NBA ratings than the previous year, declined 29% to a 1.2 from a 1.7.

Otherwise, May proved to be a very tight month. There was a four-way tie for fifth place among TBS, Fox News Channel, Cartoon Network, Lifetime Television and Nick at Nite, but all went off track to arrive at this station. Cartoon and Nick at Nite declined 21% apiece from a 1.4, while Lifetime slid 15% from a 1.3. TBS and Fox News each decreased 8% from a 1.2 in the corresponding period in 2006.

Below that level, there was a six-way logjam for the tenth spot at a 0.9 average, according to Nielsen. Here, A&E Network and Court TV both grew 29%, while Sci Fi was ahead 13% from a 0.8. For its part, HGTV was even with May 2006, but Spike TV and Hallmark Channel registered drops of 10% and 18% from their respective 1.0 and 1.1 averages from last year.

All told, basketball and USA Network's presentation of the WWE pinned 17 of the top 18 highest-rated shows of the month.