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Disney's High School Musical 2 tackles Cowboys ratings record holder for loss

Final national Nielsen ratings put The Disney Channel's High School Musical 2 in the record books on two fronts.

The 17.2 million viewers for Friday's sequel are easily enough to make HSM2 the most-watched cable program ever.

An Oct. 23, 2006 Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game on ESPN's Monday Night Football had been the previous champ with 16 million viewers. Before that, a contentious November 1993 Al Gore-Ross Perot NAFTA debate on CNN's Larry King Live had held the record for 13 years.

HSM2 also will emerge as the week's most-watched program on either broadcast or cable TV. That's never happened before, even though the summer season gives cable shows a better chance of topping the field. The Cowboy-Giants game, which aired during a week of two World Series telecasts, wound up 14th among all TV programs. A first-run episode of ABC's Desperate Housewives placed No. 1 for that week with 21.2 million viewers.

Disney Channel also cleaned up Friday night with a sneak preview of its new Phineas & Ferb animated series (10.8 million viewers nationally) and a new episode of Hannah Montana (10.7 million).

All three programs are assured of landing in the week's overall top 10, another impressive feat for Disney.