Another month, another win for USA Network. The “Characters Welcome” network finished April atop both the primetime household and total-audience ratings charts for the fourth consecutive month in 2008, easily outdistancing its nearest competitor.
More importantly for cable, USA led an industry pounding of broadcast during the month, from a household viewership-share perspective, as the medium took full advantage of broadcasters’ lack of first-run primetime scripted programming due to the three-month Writers Guild of America strike that ended this past February.
Non-pay TV cable channels averaged a 63 share for April, which was up 5% from a 60 share in April 2007 and nearly doubled the four broadcast networks’ combined 39 share. The broadcasters posted a 9% decline from the same period last year, according to Nielsen.
Among individual cable networks, USA finished the period of March 31 to April 27 with a network record 2.1 household rating, up 5% over the 2.0 the network averaged in 2007, according to an Disney-ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.
Disney Channel and Turner Network Television finished a distant second, tied with a 1.8 rating. Disney suffered a 5% decline from a 1.9 rating last year, while TNT, on the strength of its National Basketball Association playoff coverage, shot its way to a 6% increase from a 1.7 in 2007.
Presidential election primary coverage, original reality series and comedy content propelled Fox News, Nick At Nite and TBS Network respectively to a fourth place with a 1.4 rating, while the start of the 2008 Major League Baseball season and “The Force” from several repeats of the Star Wars movie franchise helped ESPN and Spike TV respectively to a fifth-place tie and 1.3 rating.
Lifetime (1.2 rating, up 9%) and A&E, Cartoon Network and Discovery Channel (all averaging a 1.0, down 17%) rounded out the Top 10.
On a total-day basis, Nickelodeon continued its incredible run of consecutive monthly first-place finishes with a 1.7 rating, although that was down 6% from a 1.8 last year.
Nick’s evening adult-geared offering, Nick At Nite, finished second with a 1.3 rating, up 8% from a 1.2 last year.
Disney Channel (1.1 rating, down 8%), TNT (1.1 flat) and USA Network (1.0, up 10%) represented the top five networks in the category.
Among the stellar performing networks garnering double-digit percent household primetime ratings increases during the month were HGTV (1.0 rating, up 11%); ABC Family (0.9, up 13%); AMC (0.9, up 29%); Lifetime Movie Network (0.8, up 60%); Food Network (0.7, up 17%); Bravo (0.6, up 20%); E! (0.5, up 25%); Headline News, Oxygen and Versus (all 0.3, up 33%); History International (0.4) up 100%); Bio Channel, Discovery Health, Investigation Discovery, Nicktoons, Speed and WE TV (all 0.3, up 50%); and BBC America and The Golf Channel (both 0.2, up 100%).
Networks that struggled during the month include FX, Sci Fi Channel and TruTV (all averaging a 0.9 rating, down 10%); TLC (0.7, down 13%); TV Land (0.5, down 38%); BET (0.5, down 17%); Animal Planet (0.4, down 20%); TV One (0.3, down 40%); Science Channel, TV Guide Network and Weather Channel (0.2, down 33%); and G4 (0.1, down 50%).