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USA Stays on Top in Primetime Despite Slip

USA Network, despite sustaining 8% audience erosion, captured its eighth consecutive annual primetime ratings title in 2013, while fellow top-10 cable performers Disney Channel, A&E Network, FX and AMC all posted viewership gains.

The “Characters Welcome” network averaged 2.68 million watchers from Dec. 31, 2012, to Dec. 29, 2013, according to a Disney Media Networks analysis of Nielsen data (reflecting live-plus-seven-day data until Dec. 16 and live-plus-same-day over the balance of the period).

USA averaged 2.92 million viewers in Nielsen’s 2012, which spanned Dec. 26, 2011, through Dec. 30, 2012.

Disney Channel placed second again, scoring with 2.44 million viewers on average, up 2% from 2.40 million in 2012.

ESPN, even though it shed 6% of its audience, came in third with 2.21 million, versus 2.34 million in 2o12.

Dipping 2% to 2.11 million viewers from 2.16 million, History switched spots with TNT, finishing fourth in primetime during 2013.

The “We Know Drama” net slid 5% to 2.07 million from 2.18 million, ranking fifth for the year in the daypart.

Among adults 18 to 49, TBS unseated USA after a seven-year run atop the primetime charts. In 2013, the “very funny” network averaged 1.05 million of the viewers that Madison Avenue prizes most, down 1% from 1.06 million, while USA lost 4% of these watchers to 1.04 million from 1.08 million in 2012. ESPN saw its 18- to-49 average decline 11% to 995,000 from 1.11 million. TNT endured a 9% decrease to 822,000 viewers from 904,000, to finish fourth. A&E improved 5% to 805,000 from 770,000 the prior year to finish fifth.

Gauged on a 24-hour basis, Nickelodeon nipped Disney Channel with 1.77 million viewers to 1.72 million. USA Network was third with 1.31 million, Adult Swim fourth at 1.28 million and TNT fifth at 1.13 million. Rounding out the top 10: Fox News Channel (1.10 million), Cartoon (1.07 million), Nick at Nite (1.06 million), History (978,000) and ESPN (975,000).

Back in primetime, TBS rode the strength of The Big Bang Theory and its originals slate to move into sixth with a 3% gain to 2.01 million viewers from 1.95 million, while Fox News dropped 13% to 1.79 million watchers from 2.06 million without the benefit of the presidential election cycle.

Nevertheless, the news-sector leader easily outdistanced rivals CNN and MSNBC.

A&E ascended 9% to 1.78 million from 1.63 million, fueled by cable’s top docuseries, Duck Dynasty.

FX, featuring such strong original series The Americans and the latest incarnation of American Horror Story, delivered a 4% advance to 1.47 million viewers in 2013 from 1.42 million. AMC pushed into the top 10 with 1.38 million from 1.17 million. The 18% gain was driven by cable’s top-rated entertainment series, The Walking Dead, and the denoument of Breaking Bad.