YEARENDER: There was little change at the top of the primetime basic cable rankings for 2011, with USA finishing the year as No. 1 in total viewers and adults 18-49 for a sixth consecutive time on the strength of its original series. The cable network added another hit to its original slate this year with rookie Suits. There was one change each in the Top 5 among total viewers and 18-49 from 2010. History broke into the Top 5 among total viewers after doing the same among adults 18-49 last year, while siblings TNT and TBS swapped places in the top 18-49 echelon. (Network rankings after the jump.)

History’s ratings ascent continued in 2011. With red-hot unscripted fare such as Pawn Stars and American Pickers, the cable channel once again posted its best year ever with double-digit gains in total viewers and adults 18-49 and a Top 5 finish in both categories after cracking the Top 10 in both total measures for the first time last year.

Also posting double-digit growth for a second consecutive year was MTV, which was fueled by juggernaut Jersey Shore, hit unscripted franchise Teen Mom, staple Video Music Awards and hot scripted newcomer Awkward. MTV moved up 5 spots in total viewers and 3 in 18-49 to finish in the Top 20/Top 10. Also posting double-digit gains this year was FX. With the help of breakout hits American Horror Story and Wilfred, the network rebounded from last year’s single-digit losses in a big way. Other networks that are up from last year include SyFy, AMC, Bio and Style. Nick At Nite tumbled, down 22% from last year in total viewers (10% in 18-49), and TBS also posed double-digit losses in both total viewers and adults 18-49. Also down year-to-year were female-skewing Lifetime and Oxygen. And for all the hoopla and big price tag associated with its launch, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network finished on par with its predecessor Discovery Health.

Fox News Channel once again dominated the news network race, finishing as No.1 in total viewers (1.9 million) for a tenth straight year. It was down 7% from last year in total viewers, while sweeping the Top 13 most watched cable programs. CNN rebounded after posting its lowest-rated year in primetime in 2010. The network was up 17% to 689,000 viewers, which was still CNN’s second worst yearly average behind 2010. CNN finished behind MSNBC (775,000) in total viewers for a second consecutive year. MSNBC was up 2% in total viewers though down 11% at 8PM following the departure of star Keith Olbermann.

Here is a list of the top cable networks in total viewers and adults 18-49 for 2011 based on most current data:

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3 years
"audience is mostly retired geezers with way too much time on their hands"... unlike "the Librul Communist...
Meme
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3 years
It's about FINALLY having ONE news channel that tells us the whole truth and presents it in...
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3 years
If what you said was actually true, the numbers would be reversed and CNN would be on...

Top 20 Cable Networks In Primetime: Total Viewers (in millions)/% difference from last year
1. USA                   3.165 +0.3%
2. Disney Channel   2.647 +3%
3. ESPN                 2.342 -2%
4. TNT                   2.232 -0.8%
5. History               1.987 +21%
6. Fox News           1.883 -7%
7. TBS                   1.614 -10%
8. A&E                   1.561 +7%
9. FX                     1.532 +21%
10. ABC Family       1.462 +1%
11. Nick At Nite      1.344 -22%
12. SyFy                1.330 +11%
13. Discovery         1.288 +2%
14. Adult Swim       1.237 N.A.
15. HGTV               1.205 -2%
16. MTV                 1.189 +21%
17. AMC                 1.182 +8%
18. Food Network    1.177 +3%
19. Comedy Central 1.006 +3%
20. Bravo                0.926 +6%

Top 20 Cable Networks In Primetime: Adults 18-49 Rating (Viewers In Millions)/% difference from last year
1. USA                    1.1 (1.210) -3%
2. ESPN                  1.0 (1.102) -4%
3. TNT                    0.8 (.950) -3%
4. TBS                    0.8 (.898) -11%
5. History               0.8 (.892) +18%
6. FX                      0.8 (.855) +21%
7. MTV                    0.7 (.770) +22%
8. A&E                    0.7 (.764) +8%
9. Discovery            0.6 (.680) +1%
10. ABC Family        0.6 (.678) +4%
11. Comedy Central 0.6 (.641) +5%
12. Bravo                0.5 (.582) +8%
13. Food Network    0.5 (.571) +1%
13. Syfy                  0.5 (.571) +6%
15. Adult Swim        0.5 (.569) N.A.
16. TruTV                0.5 (.543) +1%
17. Disney Channel  0.5 (.529) -5%
18. TLC                   0.5 (.525) -4%
19. AMC                  0.4 (.469) +10%
20. Lifetime             0.4 (.460) -10%