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Cable’s All-Time, Most-Watched Show: 'HSM2' Edges 'MNF'

10/11/2008 3:50 AM Eastern

And cable’s most-watched show of all time is…

In a contest that came down to the Nielsen live + seven-day measurement wire, the winner and still champion is Disney Channel’s High School Musical 2 by some 2,000 viewers over ESPN’s coverage of the Sept. 15 Monday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.

While the ‘Boys’ 41-37 triumph over Philly tackled cable’s all-time live audience mark, the live appeal of sports didn’t play nearly as well as the tween-targeted telefilm did on DVRs.

The Aug. 17, 2007 premiere of HSM2 drew a then-cable record 17.241 million viewers on a live + same-day basis, according to Nielsen Media Research data, a total that was first surpassed by the Dec. 3, 2007 MNF game between the then-undefeated New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, which garnered 17.522 million watchers. However, when calculated on a live + seven-day basis, HSM2 added 1.398 million viewers to finish with 18.639 million watchers.

Gauged on a live + same-day way, last month’s Dallas-Eagles game scored with 18.608 million live+ same-day watchers. Hence, it needed more than 31,000 viewers on a live + seven-day count to topple HSM2. Instead, it tallied 29,000 to come up just short at 18.637 million.

Presumably in a show of synergistic silence, spokesfolk for ESPN and Disney Channel both declined to comment on the sibling-network competition.

But don’t shed a Nielsen tear for George Bodenheimer’s squad. Season to date, ESPN’s MNF telecasts have accounted for six of cable’s top nine telecasts -- including the top four -- on a live + same-day basis. The MNF mastery was intercepted only by Fox News Channel’s coverage of the Sarah Palin-Joe Biden Vice Presidential debate on Oct. 2, which drew a network’s all-time-best 11.1 million watchers; CNN’s 10.7 million for the VP forum; and 9.8 million for On The Record With Greta Van Susteren, following the Palin-Biden mix-it-up.

But going out to live + seven-day, MNF loses another place in the rankings: Disney Channel’s telefilm Camp Rock debuted to 8.86 million, but added another 1.25 million LSD viewers to end with 10.11 million.

September