USA, A&E Rate As Top Cablers, AMC Slides

History, TBS and ESPN had strong viewership stories to tell in the second quarter -- but not Nickelodeon, which continues to see some woeful viewership data.

USA Network, with shows such as "Psyche" and "Royal Pains," continues to be the top cable network in prime time, averaging 2.75 million viewers, per Nielsen, for the second quarter. But it lost about 11% in total viewership versus the second quarter of 2011. TNT came in second again -- also down about the same levels, 9%, to 2.54 million.

But A&E Networks' History Channel continues to make ratings history, moving up 14% to 2.52 million, good for third place. Among the bigger players, TBS -- thanks to "Big Bang Theory" viewing, according to analysts -- soared 34% to 1.74 million viewers.

Nickelodeon, which has seen its share of alarming rating declines, continues along the same path, down 33% in prime time to 2.1 million viewers.  In total day numbers, Nick at Nite also declined 38% to 841,000. Nick had some company in the kids' arena. Competitor Disney Channel was down 11% to 2.28 million viewers. Still, Turner Broadcasting's Cartoon Network bucked the trend, tacking on 10% to 1.2 million viewers in total day data.

On the uptick: ESPN grew 20% to 2.04 million; Food Network found 17% more viewers in prime time, up to 1.23 million; A&E added on 6% to 1.48 million; and Syfy inched 3% higher to 1.23 million.

Among the more medium-level players, VH1 grew 19% to 617,000 in prime time and Bravo was up 6% to 951,000. Oprah Winfrey's network, OWN, showed some signs of life: up 28% to 183,000 in prime time.

Networks that moved in the negative direction include AMC, which had been riding high from "The Walking Dead," "The Killing," "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men," and slid 17% to land at 1.03 million. FX lost 3% to 1.32 million, MTV dropped 15% to 810,000, and Discovery was down 13% to 1.14 million.

Cable news networks had a mixed second quarter. Leader Fox News slipped 1% to 1.8 million; MSNBC lost 13% to 674,000; and CNN continued its downfall, sinking 35% to 448,000 in prime time.

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