Cable Nets Doubling Broadcast TV’s Ratings

Aug 22, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Cable is having a “record-setting, precedent-setting summer,” according to Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer of Turner Broadcasting.
For the first summer ever, ad-supported cable will have double the viewership of broadcast TV in prime time, with a 52.4 share, compared to 24.2 for the six major English-language broadcast networks. Cable also will double broadcast in households for the second straight year.
USA is the top network in prime time among total viewers and adults 18 to 49. In total day, Nickelodeon is tops in total viewers, TNT is No. 1 in adults 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 and Adult Swim is the leader in adults 18-34.
For years, cable has done better in summer because the broadcast nets air mostly reruns. More recently, cable has used summer to launch original programs that help brand cable networks with viewers, create value with cable operators and attract advertisers.
Mr. Wakshlag said cable viewership this summer has been driven by original programs. Cable networks have several strong returning shows, led by TNT’s “The Closer.” Many cable networks also launched new shows this summer that have outperformed what was in the time slot last summer.
At the same time, the broadcast networks are seeing double-digit declines in viewers. Erosion is particularly bad in scripted drama, the most prevalent genre on the broadcasters’ schedules.
Mr. Wakshlag also pointed to numbers that showed the top original cable shows are watched on digital video recorders in numbers similar to those of top broadcast shows. For example, when DVR viewing is included, Sci Fi’s “Eureka” increases its total viewership by 47.9 percent among adults 18 to 49 and FX’s “Rescue Me” jumps 45.2 percent.
The broadcast shows that got the biggest boosts from DVR viewership in May, when new episodes were airing, were NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which gained 35 percent, ABC’s “Lost,” which added 33.8 percent and Fox’s “24,” which increased 32.1 percent.


  1. Here’s a fun fact. Eight of last summer’s top ten primetime cable networks ratings have declined this summer (including the two big Turner nets whose research dude you quote here).
    We don’t seem to be reading about that too much amidst all the recent cable suck-up articles.

  2. The tide is turning. How long before cable has more shows in the Top 20 than broadcast?

  3. Roger writes: How long before cable has more shows in the Top 20 than broadcast?
    “Cable Rating / 100’s of channels” will never surpass “Broadcast Rating / 7 channels (i include PBS)”
    Try buying time on HBO or Disney.
    I cannot deny that Nickelodeon RULES the cable universe (but the rating/share drops heavily after Fox News and TNT and USA)
    and I think Carl LaFong is: Right
    (capital “R,” small “i,” small “g,” small “h,” small “t” — right)

  4. Explain to me again why the broadcasters are going to clean the MSOs’ collective clocks in the next round of retrans negotiations. In five years, network affiliates will be paying the cablecos for retrans. Unless.

  5. You guys can carp all you want about who’s winning the ratings wars, but I’ll tell you this: cable is where the good shows are, and that’s becoming more and more true even during the traditional fall season. As for summer fare, I’ll take “Rescue Me,” “Mad Men,” “Weeds,” heck, even “John From Cincinnati” over anything the brodcast nets are running.

  6. you said: “I cannot deny that Nickelodeon RULES the cable universe”…
    but, I see “Disney Channel crushes rivals in weekly ratings” according to todays headlines…

  7. The cable vs broadcast networks argument has raged for years, but is largely irrelevant in a world where the majority of viewers are either cable or satellite subscribers. Most viewers fail to differentiate between “broadcast and cable networks.”
    If the broadcast networks want to gain market share, than they need to look to “heartland values, while focusing on proven storytelling techniques.” When TV delivers programs that people want to watch–they do. This isn’t rocket science.

  8. DVR penetration may double but Broadcast TV viewers are still present. You know the basics, a person considers TV as his main source of entertainment.

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