It came down to only 15,000 viewers.
Disney Channel and USA Network had been in a neck-and-neck race for the 2007 total-viewers crown among basic cable networks, but final numbers released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research put Disney just ahead of USA (2.69 million vs. 2.68 million).
Disney took the honor for the first time ever thanks to such programming as "High School Musical 2" and "Hannah Montana." After factoring in Live+7 data, the Aug. 17 premiere of "HSM2" was the most-watched cable telecast of the year, averaging 18.6 million total viewers (based on Live+SD data only, the musical movie pulled in 17.2 million).
Just behind was sister network ESPN's Dec. 3 "Monday Night Football" game between the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens, which averaged 17.5 million total viewers (the number didn't change much with Live+7 data included). "MNF" telecasts actually accounted for eight of the 10 most-watched cable telecasts of the year. Rounding out the top 10 was the Aug. 17 episode of "Hannah Montana" (11.2 million), which aired after the premiere of "HSM2."
Disney researchers said that its total-viewer number marks the biggest annual primetime audience for any cable network ever. The 2007 figures also mark a 6% improvement compared with 2006 for Disney and a 2% increase for USA.
"We have been building this record-setting year for the last decade, with a foundation of 'must watch' original movies and series created by an extraordinary team," Disney Channels Worldwide president Rich Ross said. "We are on a first-name basis with America -- they know Disney, but they also know Troy, Sharpay, Hannah, Zack, Cody and Raven," he added, referring to the characters of various Disney programs.