ESPN and USA Network tied for first place in primetime
ratings in October, with the sports channel doubling its numbers from a year ago thanks to
a boost from its National Football League games.
ESPN was up just over 100 percent, to a 2.2 rating in
primetime, according to Nielsen Media Research data supplied by Turner Entertainment
Research last week
"The National Football League has caused a halo effect
across all of our programming," said Artie Bulgrin, ESPN's vice president of
research and sales development, in a prepared statement.
ESPN and USA, which saw a 10 percent lift, were followed by
Nickelodeon, with a 2.1 rating in primetime, up 5 percent from last year's 2.0.
Turner Network Television came next, with a 2.0 rating, down 20 percent from a year ago,
mainly because it lost the NFL..
Coming off its best third quarter ever, basic cable is
continuing its ratings steamroll during this new season, according to Robert Sieber, vice
president of audience development for Turner Broadcasting System Inc.
For the first five weeks of the season, cable's
ratings in primetime were up 16 percent, to a 23.3 from a 20.1. In contrast, The "Big
Four" broadcast networks have dropped 10 percent, to a 32.7 from a 36.5, according to
Sieber continued to stress that cable's growth is
across a broad group of networks. Out of 35 cable networks, 30 delivered more audience in
primetime during the first four weeks of the season, he said.
In October, the all-news channels continued to reap the
benefits of the Monica Lewinsky White House sex scandal. Fox News Channel's primetime
ratings jumped 400 percent versus a year ago, to a 0.5, while MSNBC was up 150 percent, to
a 0.5. And Cable News Network grew by 29 percent, to a 0.9.
Among the ratings losers in October was Fox Family Channel,
which relaunched in August. It averaged a 0.9 rating, down 31 percent from a year ago,
although it boasted that it has succeeded in attracting younger viewers this year. And FX
was down 36 percent, to a 0.7.
As for TNT, with the NFL factored out, the network's
primetime ratings would be slightly ahead of last year's, Sieber said.
E! Entertainment Television and CNBC earned handsome
increases in their October primetime ratings. E! was up 67 percent, to a 0.5, while CNBC
-- with extensive Lewinsky coverage in primetime -- rose 75 percent, to a 0.7.
Cable is continuing to attract kids in droves, outpacing
broadcast. For the first time ever, more kids are watching basic cable than the seven
broadcast networks combined in primetime, Sieber said.
Nickelodeon is enjoying especially great success with one
of the primetime shows that it debuted two months ago, The Wild Thornberrys. The
show has been averaging a 6.2 rating, second only to Nick's weeknight airing of its
In October, Nick's new "Nickel-O-Zone"
primetime block for kids registered a 31 percent increase in ratings over the same time
period last year.