A lot of cable nets were winners in 2Q, and we’re not just talking about USA, which pulled off an unprecedented 28 consecutive quarters at the top of the prime heap among total viewers. TNT was close on USA’s heels, with 2.6mln viewers for 2Q, helped by NBA playoff coverage. Rounding out the top 5 nets in P2+ for prime were Disney (2.4mln), History (2mln) and Fox News (1.9mln).

Ad-supported cable hit a new record in terms of 18-49 share, taking 71% vs the Big 4’s 29%, according to a Turner analysis of Nielsen data. One of the biggest gainers was CNN, which saw prime ratings climb 50% YOY to 673K. Still behind Fox News, but topping MSNBC in total viewers (-16% to 584K) and the 25-54 demo for the 1st time since ’09. In fact, for the 1st time in 8 years CNN and sister HLN both beat MSNBC in total day among P2+ and 25-54s. CNN was helped by its Boston Marathon bombing coverage, while HLN’s boost came from the Jodi Arias trial (it was up 49% in prime and 62% in total day).

A&E saw a 20% uptick in 2Q prime (1.8mln total viewers) with "Duck Dynasty" accounting for the top 3 cable shows of the quarter (14.4mln viewers, 12.6mln and 11.9mln). The only non-Duck shows in cable’s top 10 programs for 2Q were the NBA playoffs on TNT (occupies 5 slots) and Discovery‘s "Skywire Walk," which had more than 10.6mln viewers. Lifetime is happy to have bumped P2+ up 11% YOY to 1.2mln, notching its best 2Q in 4 years with total viewers, 25-54s, women 25-54 and 18-49s. Other winners include GSN (up 30% to 386K total viewers), Hallmark Movie (+42%, 258K), OWN (+27% to 383K), WE (+32% to 344K) and Destination America (+24% to 186K).

Of course, not everyone posted increases during the Q. Despite its top 5 finish, History was down 20% in total viewers. ESPN fell 33% to 1.4mln, largely due to last year’s shortened NBA season that featured a heavy concentration of games toward the backend (23 regular season games aired in a 1-month period last year vs 8 in that period in ’13). The Western Conference Finals also only lasted 3 games vs 7 last year. Also in negative territory is Nick Jr, which saw a 49% decrease in total viewers for prime, falling to 462K. Chalk some of the decline up to the introduction of its NickMom block that starts at 10pm. The 10-11pm hour fell 78% in total viewers for the net YOY, but the channel also posted declines in the 8-9pm (-29%) and 9-10pm (37%) hour.

ED NOTE: This story originally appeared in our premium product, CableFAX Daily. Go here to subscribe.

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