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TNT Maintains Basic Ratings Lead

Continued strong showing by original series The Closer, acquired workhorse Law & Order and the finale of Into The West helped keep Turner Network Television atop basic cable's primetime ratings race.

The drama network posted a 2.1 household average from July 18 through July 24, edging out Disney Channel's 2.0 mark, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

TNT's coverage of NASCAR's Pennsylvania 500 Nextel Cup race from the Poconos on July 23 was the top rated show for the week, revving up a 5.7 from 1:30 to 6 p.m. that day. The latest installment of Kyra Segdwick-vehicle The Closer on July 18 ranked third with a 4.1 , while an L&O episode on July 19 finished in a tie for 16th with a 2.8. The premiere of the finale of Into The West notched a 2.7 on July 22, good for 25th for the week.

For its part, commercial-free Disney tapped the ongoing success of installments of series That's So Raven, Phil of the Future, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and telepic Life is Ruff to place second.

USA Network was third for the period overall with a 1.9 average, led by the July 18 installment of quirky detective series Monk (a 4.1 to rank fourth), and the July 24 episode of alien-abduction skein The 4400 (a 2.8, tied for 16th).

Nick at Nite and Fox News Channel, bolstered by its coverage of President Bush's nomination of John Roberts for the Supreme Court on July 19, tied for fourth, each with a 1.7. Lifetime Television was sixth with a 1.6, followed by TBS at a 1.5, Cartoon Network's 1.4 and Spike TV's 1.3.

There was a logjam in the 10th spot as Discovery Channel, benefiting from the 18th iteration of its “Shark Week” programming stunt, TV Land, Sci Fi Channel and Hallmark, which registered the 11th highest-rated program in its history with telepic Back to You & Me, a 1.8 on July 23. All of these networks averaged a 1.1 over the span.

As for total-programming day measurement, Nickelodeon was first with a 1.9, trailed by sister service Nick at Nite's 1.6.