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Cable not on ropes

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Even TV’s two “reality” monsters couldn’t slow cable down last month.
Despite strong February sweeps showings by CBS and Fox, led by reality hits “Survivor: The Australian Outback” and “Temptation Island,” cable networks as a group managed to again boost overall viewership.
Ad-supported cable networks grew by 2.6 million homes, or 13 percent, in prime-time household delivery to 25.6 million homes and rose 12 percent in ratings to a 25.1, according to Turner Entertainment Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research statistics.
In contrast, the seven broadcast networks dropped 1.5 million homes, or 3 percent, in prime-time household delivery to 35.2 million and 4 percent in ratings to a 34.4.
Total over-the-air broadcast TV dropped 4 percent in household delivery to 40.9 million homes and 5 percent in ratings to a 40.1
While cable siphoned away more viewers from broadcast, it also managed to bring in new viewers, experts say.
“Basic cable was up about 3.1 million homes in prime time, and the broadcast nets were down about 1.3 million homes,” said Bob Sieber, executive vice president of research for Turner Entertainment Research. “The difference is roughly the increase in viewing, which was 1.7 million more households.”
Broadcast experts also say cable still can’t match broadcast networks in viewer reach. “Broadcast television had 22 prime-time programs in February averaging a 10 household rating or better, while cable had none,” said Harold Simpson, vice president of research and development for the Television Bureau of Advertising.
USA Network and TBS Superstation shared cable’s top prime-time ratings spot for the month, both posting a 2.0 rating in their respective cable universes. TBS, with its bigger household universe, averaged 1.66 million homes compared with 1.62 million for USA.
Lifetime Television placed third in prime time, averaging a 1.9 rating and 1.5 million homes, up 27 percent from last year and the network’s single largest viewer increase in February in both prime time and total day.
Fox News Channel was cable’s biggest prime-time gainer in February, up 80 percent to a 0.9 and 507,000 homes.
In contrast, cable news rivals CNN and MSNBC were flat, posting a 0.8 rating and 609,000 homes, and a 0.4 and 253,000 homes, respectively.
Fox News Channel also won the all-news race in total day, jumping 150 percent to a 0.5 and 270,000 homes. CNN and MSNBC were flat with a 0.4 and 305,000 homes and 0.3 and 200,000 homes, respectively.
TNN’s prime-time ratings surged 57 percent to a 1.1 rating and 880,000 homes, fueled by the WWF.
Cable’s other prime-time gainers for February include E! Entertainment Television, up 25 percent to a 0.5 rating and 358,000 homes; and Comedy Central, up 17 percent to a 0.7 and 476,000 homes.
Cable’s biggest prime-time losers for the month include Sci-Fi Channel and TV Land, both down 22 percent. Sci-Fi averaged a 0.7 and 482,000 homes, while TV Land averaged a 0.7 and 398,000 homes.
Movies and the World Wrestling Federation were cable’s biggest ratings draws in February. WWF accounted for eight of cable’s top 20 shows, while movies, both original and acquired, accounted for 23 of cable’s top 50 telecasts.
Part 1 of USA Network’s four-hour original movie “Attila” took cable’s top-rated-show honors, posting a 6.1 rating ad 4.9 million homes on its Jan. 30 premiere. “Attila” Part 2 followed up Jan. 31 with a 5.6 rating and 8.3 million homes.
Nickelodeon, which becomes Nick at Nite at 9 p.m. (ET), dropped 12 percent to 1.5 rating and 1.2 million homes. MTV dropped 11 percent to a 0.8 and 618,000 homes.
Court TV showed signs its two-year ratings climb may be hitting a plateau. The network posted a 0.6 rating worth 310,000 homes, flat in ratings but up 30 percent in households due to increased distribution. Court TV was also flat for total day with a 0.6 and 176,000 homes.
Nickelodeon topped all cable networks for total day, averaging a 1.4 rating representing 1.1 million homes, down 7 percent from last year.
TBS and Lifetime tied for second place in total day, both posting a 1.2 rating. TBS averaged 969,000 homes to Lifetime’s 863,000.
Cable’s biggest total day gainers for February include TNN, up 25 percent to a 0.5 and 426,000 homes; Comedy Central, which rose 25 percent to a 0.5 and 324,000; and Turner Network Television, up 13 percent to a 0.9 and 748,000.
Cable’s biggest daytime losers last month included TV Land, down 33 percent to a 0.4 and 242,000 homes; Home & Garden Network, which fell 20 percent to a 0.4 and 301,000; MTV, down 17 percent to a 0.5 and 406,000; and ESPN, which dropped 17 percent to a 0.5 and 366,000.