Disney Channel Rules Summer Primetime

Like most movie musicals, High School Musical 2 had a very happy ending — for Disney Channel this summer.

The network, buoyed by the cable-record-shattering sequel to High School Musical, won the primetime summer ratings race, according to Nielsen Media Research data released Tuesday.

Disney Channel averaged a 2.5 household rating this summer, up 9% from last summer’s 2.3, placing it No. 1 among basic-cable networks in primetime, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen data. Disney Channel’s High School Musical 2’s debut on Aug. 17 scored a 10.2 rating and attracted 17.2 million viewers, making it basic cable’s most-watched telecast of all time.

Finishing second was USA Network, which posted a 2.2 rating, down 8% from a year ago. Turner Network Television ranked third in primetime this summer, with a 2.0 rating, down 9%, 

All told, Disney Channel officials said the network notched the largest summertime audience in primetime for any cable network, averaging 3.1 million viewers. That bested the previous record-holders, USA and TNT in 2006 and 2005, respectively, by 7%.

TBS was fourth for summer 2007 with a 1.4 rating, flat versus the corresponding year-earlier period.Lifetime Television and Fox News Channel were tied for fifth, with each garnering a 1.3 rating this summer. Lifetime was down 13%, while FNC was flat.

ESPN, Cartoon Network and Hallmark Channel were knotted in a seventh place tie, all with a 1.2 primetime average. ESPN and Hallmark both dipped 8%, while Cartoon Network was down 14% when compared with last summer.

Next in the primetime rankings were Nick at Nite, A&E Network and Court TV, all of which averaged a 1.1 rating. Nick at Nite dropped 15%. A&E was up 22%, while Court TV saw a sizable 38% gain.

They were followed in turn by Discovery Channel, HGTV, FX, Spike TV and Sci Fi Channel, with a 1.0 rating each. All five networks were flat in primetime households compared with last summer.

Among all-news networks, CNN was down 13%, to a 0.7, while MSNBC saw a gain of 67%, to a 0.5 rating.

The 2007 summer period as defined by Nielsen, ran from May 28 to Aug. 26, compared with the May 29 to Aug. 27 span last year.