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TNT's Closer Sets Record, Leads Cable Ratings

TNT's season three premiere of The Closer broke the record the show set last year to become basic cable's most-viewed series telecast ever. The hour-long episode drew 8.81 million total viewers, 2.91 million of them adults 18-49 last night (June 18) at 9 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research prepared for TNT. That was up 6% in total viewers from last season's 8.28 million total viewers and up 11% in the demo from last year's 2.63 million.

“This sends a signal to every artist and agent in the industry that TNT and cable is capable of getting these kinds of numbers,” says Turner Entertainment Network’s President Steve Koonin in an interview. “And it builds on itself. We’re only getting better shows on cable, and I’m glad we’re kind of leading the way.”

TNT followed The Closer with the premiere of its new drama Heartland at 10 p.m. With 4.3 million total viewers (1.2 million of them 18-49), the show held on to less than half of its Closer lead-in, but still posted a strong premiere number for a cable original and faced competition from Matt Lauer's much publicized interview with Prince William and Prince Harry on Dateline NBC, which Koonin said was aimed at the same female viewer base.

For the week that ended June 17 (thus excluding the high-rated episode), USA Network was the most-viewed basic cable channel with 2.73 million total viewers, largely thanks to consistently high-performing WWE wrestling. Monday night Raw episodes at 9 and 10 p.m. were the week's most-viewed shows, with 5.69 million and 6.33 million, respectively.

TNT averaged 2.12 million viewers for the week, followed by TBS with 2.05 million and Lifetime with 1.65 million. The women's network's Army Wives continues to post record ratings, this week growing its total audience from its premiere two weeks earlier. The show's third episode at 10 p.m. on June 17 averaged 3.84 million viewers (1.3 million women 18-49), up 9% from the premiere's 3.5 million total viewers.

Wives' Sunday night cable competition at 10 p.m. included the season premiere of USA's Dead Zone, which drew 2.12 million (USA's The 4400 season premiere drew 2.51 million at 9 p.m.); VH1's Flavor of Love: Charm Girls, which averaged 2.6 million total viewers with a clip show and two episodes of a Star Wars-themed Robot Chicken marathon in Cartoon Network's Adult Swim block (the 10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. episodes drew 2.24 million and 2.38 million, respectively).