Cable Sweeps Up During Week One

11/16/2003 7:00 PM Eastern

Ad-supported cable's rise in primetime metrics continued unabated during the first week of the November sweep. Basic cable scored a 9.1% year-over-year uptick in household ratings, to a collective 30.1 from Nov. 3 to Nov. 9. That was up from the 27.6 posted during the comparable week in 2002, according to a Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Cable also recorded a 9.5% rise in household share to 48.5 from a 44.3 from Nov. 4 to 10, 2002, while its delivery improved 10.6% to 32.6 million households from 29.5 million.

These gains were contrasted by broadcast slippage during the first week of the November sweep — a span in which the networks present higher-quality fare and specials to drive ratings and help local stations set higher advertising rates.

The seven broadcast networks saw their weighted average rating decline 2.6% to a 30.8 from a 31.6, as their share decreased 2% from a 50.4 to a 49.4. On the delivery front, the seven networks sustained a 1% hit to 33.4 million households from 33.7 million, according to the CAB analysis.

All of the broadcasters save for CBS — ahead 7.5% to a 10.0 — and ABC — unchanged, at a 6.7 average — sustained ratings erosion during the first November sweep week.

On the cable side, ESPN, driven by its National Football League coverage, held a substantial lead, but otherwise, the primetime cable landscape was especially competitive from Nov. 3-9.

The "total sports network" — boosted by the 8.0 household mark for its St. Louis Rams-Baltimore Ravens Sunday Night Football game on Nov. 9, the period's highest-rated show — posted a 2.7, according to an ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen data.

Nickelodeon was second for the week with a 1.9, and the kids' kingpin held a 0.2-point edge over rivals Cartoon Network and Disney Channel, as well as USA Network and Turner Network Television, all of which finished with a 1.7.

Lifetime Television and TBS Superstation were next, as both recorded 1.6 ratings. TLC and A&E Network completed the top 10, each with a 1.2, to ease past MTV: Music Television and A&E Network (1.1 apiece).

Discovery Channel, AMC and ESPN2 weren't far behind, logjammed with 1.0 averages.

Browns-Ravens also helped ESPN grab the leadership spot among all key adult demos in primetime. ESPN averaged 737,000 adults 18 to 34. MTV, boosted in part by Punk'd and other shows in its "Sunday Stew," was second with this group, averaging 539,000 of those watchers.

Among the set most coveted by advertisers, adults 18 to 49, ESPN averaged 1.62 million viewers, well ahead of second-ranked TBS Superstation's 1.11 million. The gap between those two top finishers among adults 25 to 54 was a little wider: ESPN grabbed 1.63 million, versus 1.08 million for TBS.

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