Basic-cable networks held serve over their broadcast television counterparts relative to share of primetime television households during the 2009-10 television season.
The cable industry averaged a 59 share of television households for the period of Sept. 28, 2009, to May 26, 2010, matching its performance from last season. That easily bested broadcast's 39 share, which also remained flat against the 2008-09 TV campaign, according to an Disney-ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen numbers.
While the industry didn't lose any ground to the broadcast networks during the season, cable's failure to increase its year-to-year share is noteworthy given the medium's recent dominance over ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, which benefited from its Vancouver Olympics coverage in February, but was hampetered by its disastrous turn with Jay Leno in primetime.
"Cable needs to keep its eye on the ball, which means a continual flow of fresh, breakout programming - networks cannot get complacent," said TV historian Tim Brooks. "I don't think any huge collapse is coming right away, but there's always a possibility that it could move backwards a year."
The cable industry was paced by USA Network, which averaged 3.1 million primetime viewers during the period, easily outdistancing ESPN, which drew 2.5 million viewers. Disney Channel finished third with 2.4 million viewers, followed by Fox News Channel and TNT, both of whom averaged 2.1 million viewers.
TBS (1.9 million viewers), Nick At Nite (1.7 million), A&E (1.5 million), History (1.4 million) and ABC Family (1.4 million) rounded out the top 10 network for the television season, according to Nielsen.
The "characters network" was also tops for the last month of the 2009-10 TV campaign, as USA averaged 3 million viewers in May to hold off TNT, which rode its coverage of the National Basketball Association playoffs to a 2.9 million audience average. Disney finished third with 2.3 million viewers, while ESPN (2.2 million) and Fox News (1.82 million) secured the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.
TNT and ESPN's NBA postseason coverage dominated the most-watched programming list in May, with hoop playoff telecasts occupying the top 15 programs for the month, led by ESPN's May 13 Cleveland Cavaliers-Boston Celtics Eastern Conference semi-finals telecast, which averaged 8.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen.