CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- 55% of all viewers were watching basic cable during the month of July, its all-time highest aggregate share of viewers in television history. That left 36% of viewers watching the seven major broadcast networks, down one share point from a year ago. Such news continues the summer trend in which cable steals its viewership from the broadcast stations thanks to its original offerings during the period.
Here's a breakdown of how several cable networks fared during July, both good and bad:
COMEDY CENTRAL: Last week's premiere of "Reno 911!" registered an impressive 1.94 rating (2.2 million viewers) in households and a 1.51 rating (1.5 million viewers) in adults 18-49. That score in the key demographic made it just the second series in the network's history ("Chappelle's Show" being the other) to build on "South Park's" lead-in (+20%) not to mention outperformed the prior six-week Wednesday, 10:30/9:30c time period average by 86%. In addition, the debut of "Reno" was the highest rated program on basic cable that night among men 12-34 and won its timeslot in every male demographic including men 12-34, men 18-34, men 18-49 and men 25-54. That good news for the network has helped offset recent declines for fellow newcomer "I'm With Busey" which has fallen to just 700,000 viewers on average during July.
FX: The network's late-night offering "The Orlando Jones Show" has tumbled to just 240,000 viewers on average this month. FX is hoping newcomer "Nip/Tuck" and its forthcoming "Friday Night Fix" block will help raise the profile of the series. Speaking of "Nip/Tuck," week two of the series notched a stellar 3.0 household rating (3.3 million viewers) last night, just below last week's 3.2 household rating (3.7 million viewers). It was also the most watched cable series of the night, second only to TNT's "Law & Order" (3.9 million viewers) and took the top spot among cable series in adults 18-49 (1.7/5 rating, 2.1 million viewers - an increase from last week by 5%), even beating a repeat of "Judging Amy" on CBS.
BRAVO: Things just keep on getting better and better for "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." Thanks to an abbreviated run on NBC last Thursday, the series soared to a 2.5 rating and 2.7 million viewers last night, more than 63% above last week's already record-breaking numbers. The makeover series also built considerably from its lead-in, the gay dating series "Boy Meets Boy," which managed a 1.4 household rating (1.6 million viewers) for its premiere. The debut also delivered 1.2 million viewers in adults 18-49 and 1.1 million in 25-54. The pair combined to give Bravo to top spot among cable networks in adults 18-49 for the entire night.
USA: "Monk" continues to be a rousing success story for the channel, averaging 3.2 million viewers during July making it one of the top 10 most watched programs on basic cable. Also solid but not spectacular has been "The Dead Zone," which pulled down 2.6 million viewers on average for the month. "Zone," unlike "Monk" however, consistently places in the top 10 among all ad-supported cable programs in the key demographics of adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Such characteristics mean a third season is likely around the corner for the drama.
A&E: After a solid start last week, British import "MI-5" dipped considerably last night to a 1.0 household rating. The drama kicked off with a 1.6 household rating on July 22.
ABC FAMILY: Out of all the basic cable networks, the ABC sibling is seeing its original offerings backfire the most. The Sunday trio of "Dance Fever," "Perfect Match: New York" and "Tying the Knot: The Wedding of Melissa Joan Hart" have all been disappointments for the channel. "Match" kicked off this past week with 1.1 million viewers while "Knot" managed just 800,000 viewers, both declines from the network's numbers during the same period last year. Only "Dance Fever," which has averaged slightly more than 1 million viewers, has managed to equal its time slot average from a year ago. On the flip side, ABC Family has seen some legs on its original romantic comedies. The recent "Lucky 7" telefilm managed a 2.1 household rating, on par with last month's "This Time Around" (2.2 household rating). The network hopes to see similar scores for next month's "See Jane Date." Eight other original movies are in the works as the network hopes to have one new offering each month beginning in October.
TNN: Interestingly enough, the soon to be rebranded "first network for men" was down 6% in primetime and 4% overall in its targeted men 18-34 demographic when compared to a year ago. Even its much-hyped "The Strip" animation block has slid considerably, down 30% overall from its bow on June 26. "Stripperella" nevertheless remains the big draw of the two-hour block where it has averaged a little more than 1 million viewers after four airings despite premiering to twice that. Fellow "Strip" entries "Gary the Rat" and "Ren & Stimpy" have fared far worse as neither reached the top 50 in adults 18-34 in the past two weeks, despite setting network records in the demo for their respective bows.
MTV: "The Tom Green Show" continued to show some legs this month as the series is up 30% from network's midnight slot a year ago. And despite the storm clouds circling both "The Real World" and "The Osbournes" for failing to duplicate last year's breakthrough numbers, each has placed in the top 15 among basic cable series in households and adults 18-49 with last night's airings drawing 2.7 and 2.3 million viewers respectively. "The Real World" even claimed the top spot in the key demographic during the week of July 13. Both "Making the Band 2" and "Road Rules" have also made marks in adults 18-49, both landing consistently in the top 10.
TNT: And who says original series are everything? Between "Law & Order" repeats and a few original movies, TNT led all basic cable networks in total viewers and adults 18-49 during the period.
LIFETIME: In addition to war horse "Strong Medicine" (which recently scored a 2.3 household rating on July 20) the network saw good news in the form of its "The Designing Women Reunion" on Monday. The 90-minute special snagged a 3.1 rating in households (3.3 million viewers) making it the second-highest-rated special in the network's 19-year history, only behind the recent "The Golden Girls Reunion" special on June 2 (3.7 household rating, 4.2 million viewers). "Designing" was also number one in its time slot among both broadcast and cable networks in several demographics: women 18-49, women 25-54 and adults 25-54.