August has been really hot for original movies on cable,
with made-for-TV films breaking ratings records for a wide variety of cable networks.
The evening of Sunday, Aug. 22, proved to be a special
bonanza for cable, even though it had two original movies competing head-to-head that
night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.: Turner Network Television's You Know My Name and Fox
Family Channel's Au Pair.
VH1 -- part of the flock of cable networks that have gotten
into the original-movie business and that are seeing results -- also premiered a
made-for-TV movie that night.
You Know My Name,a Western starring Sam
Elliott, posted a 6.4 rating for its premiere play Aug. 22, delivering 4.4 million
households, according to Nielsen Media Research data supplied by Turner Entertainment
Research. The three plays of the film on TNT that night were seen by 17.7 million
You Know My Name'spremiere also ranked No. 2
among all cable shows during the week of Aug. 16 through 22, and it was the
third-most-watched original-movie premiere in TNT's history.
Boosted by the movie's performance, TNT ranked No. 1 in
primetime for basic cable the week of Aug. 16 with a 2.4 rating, just a sliver ahead of
USA Network, which posted a 2.3.
Fox Family's premiere of its original movie, Au Pair,
earned a 5.0 rating -- the greatest viewership ever for a single program during the
network's 22-year history, officials said last week. In fact, Au Pair was the
fifth-highest-rated cable program for the week of Aug. 16.
A peak audience of 7.2 million people tuned in to the movie
during its 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot, with an average of 3.7 million homes watching. Au
Pair tallied the largest total number of households and the largest number of women 18
to 49 ever recorded in the former The Family Channel's history.
The telepic stars Gregory Harrison as a powerful CEO who
hires recent master of business administration graduate Heidi Noelle Lenhart as the nanny
for his bratty children.
During the week of Aug. 16, basic cable registered its
highest primetime share for the 1998-1999 season, according to the Cabletelevision
Cable not only outperformed the "Big Four"
broadcast networks by 10 percent in primetime and by almost 11 percent in total day, but
it surpassed the seven broadcast networks by almost 5 percent.
Cable's household primetime delivery for the week was 25.1
million, with a 25.2 rating and 46.2 share, versus the seven broadcasters' 23.9 million
delivery, 24.1 rating and 44.1 share, the CAB said.
The evening of Aug. 22, when the cable movies did so well,
broadcast's overall audience share was very low, according to Turner vice president of
audience development Robert Sieber.
"There's room for multiple successes for cable,"
For primetime Aug. 22, basic cable did a 31.3 rating, or a
whopping 55.6 share, according to Turner. In contrast, the Big Four broadcasters only
posted a 22.3 rating, which is a 39.6 share.
On average, 31.1 million homes were tuned to cable, while
only 22.2 million were watching the Big Four.
Turner plans to release summer ratings numbers this week.
Sieber said basic cable has been averaging a 47 share in primetime, compared with the Big
Four broadcast networks' 42 share.
TNT and Fox Family weren't the only networks that did well
with their telepics this August, as other cable programmers that have ventured into
original movies reaped the fruits of their investment.
TNT's sister network, TBS Superstation, also hit a home run
with its third original movie, First Daughter. For its Aug. 15 premiere, First
Daughter did a 6.9 rating, drawing the largest audience ever for a movie on basic
cable, excluding miniseries. The movie was seen in 5.3 million households -- the largest
audience TBS has ever seen for a single program.
Lifetime Television also reaped the fruits of its
investment in original movies. Its Aug 16 premiere of The Price of a Broken Heart was
the sixth-highest-rated cable program for the week, averaging a 4.4 rating, or 3.2 million
households. It ranked right behind Au Pair's 5.0.
The Price of a Broken Heart scored the highest rating
for a Lifetime original movie this year.
VH1 aired its first two original movies in August, Sweetwater:
A True Rock Story and Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol.
Sweetwater premiered Aug. 15 with a 1.8 rating, making
it VH1's second-highest-rated telecast this year. Ricky Nelson debuted Aug. 22 and
posted a 1.7 rating, the network's third-highest-rated telecast so far in 1999.
Even The History Channel busted its own ratings records in
August with its original five-part miniseries, The History of Sex. The network
scored its highest ratings ever Aug. 16 with its premiere installment of The History of
The Twentieth Century episode of the miniseries
garnered a 2.9 rating, or 1.7 million households, on its first play. Two additional
installments of The History of Sex did a 2.7 and 2.6, respectively, ranking then
Nos. 26 and 34 in the list of the top 50 basic-cable shows for the week of Aug. 16.
"We knew it would do well," History senior vice
president of programming Abbe Raven said, "and we were thrilled with its performance
the entire week."
Buoyed by the spicy series, History recorded its
highest-rated week the week of Aug. 16, according to Raven. The five parts of the
miniseries themselves averaged a 2.5 rating on their first plays, or 1.5 million homes.