USA Network Rules the Basic Cable Roost in 2009

In the world of basic cable TV, the USA Network is king. The network, thanks to its returning hit “Burn Notice” and new hits “Royal Pains” and “Blue Collar”, topped the competition with the most-watched basic cable viewership for the year. The breezy, easy going net was tops among the heavily sought-after adults 18-49 demo (that’s up 29% from its 2008 numbers), with “Burn Notice” second in total viewers (a whopping 7.19 million) only to TNT’s veteran cop show “The Closer” (queen of the cable nets with 7.75 million), according to 2009 averages.

Besides USA, the FX Channel also saw strong numbers for 2009, literally riding original shows like the dramatic powerhouse “Sons of Anarchy” and the comedies “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and newcomer “The League” to higher numbers. Overall, the channel was up 10% from its 2008 numbers. ESPN, meanwhile, used the addition of Monday Night Football to give it the second highest viewers in the 18-49 demo only to USA.

TNT meanwhile saw respectable if flat numbers among its myriad crime shows (the returning “The Closer” and new freshman “Dark Blue”, while saying goodbye to “Saving Grace”) and med newcomer (Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Hawthorne”). The net also debuted the much-hyped Raymond Romano drama “Men of a Certain Age”, which opened strong but has petered out since.

Other numbers: the Food Network grew 26% in total viewers, while TLC, buoyed by the “real” and unreal drama of “Jon and Kate Plus 8” grew 18% in total viewers and 13% in the 18-49 demo. Also hot: Discovery’s “Deadliest Catch,” Lifetime’s “Project Runway” and Bravo’s “Top Chef.” Comedy Central and MTV both fell by 10% in total viewers from 2008.

Sons of Anarchy: who says crime doesn't pay?