Cable Premieres Garner Strong Ratings

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Several basic-cable network series and specials drew substantial premiere audiences last week, as the medium continues to prove it can successfully compete against broadcast's first-run fare.

Disney Channel's tween-targeted That's So Raven
set a network ratings record for a series debut, garnering a 3.0 for its Jan. 17 maiden voyage, said network representatives. The show, starring Raven-Symone (The Cosby Show) as a teenage girl with clairvoyant powers, also set marks among tweens 9 to 14 (8.1), kids 6 to 11 (8.4), girls 6 to 11 (12.0) and girls 9 to 14 (11.5).

TLC also set a primetime record for its live Jan. 18 episode of Trading Spaces. The special presentation, which originated from Las Vegas, garnered a 4.4 household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That was strong enough to beat all broadcast, premium and basic-cable networks among women 25 to 54 and 18 to 34 during its 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. (EST) time slot.

Trading Spaces
executive producer Stephen Schwartz said the episode's uniqueness — the remodeled rooms were unveiled live — helped to boost ratings.

"It worked so well that we'll probably do it again sometime," Schwartz said.

TLC also scored with a sneak preview of What Not To Wear, which followed Trading Spaces. The reality show, which gives an unsuspecting person a fashion makeover, generated a 3.0 rating, according to Nielsen.

Meanwhile, Black Entertainment Television's Jan. 21 debut of the Showtime drama Soul Food
earned a 0.7 rating, boosting performance in the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot by 21 percent, said BET spokesman Michael Lewellen. The show performed well, even up against the premiere of Fox's American Idol.

Viacom Inc.-owned BET will air a 12-episode sneak peak of the first three seasons of Soul Food, which it acquired from its sister premium network, through February. It will offer a full menu of Food
this fall.

Lifetime Television's reality series Final Justice, featuring Erin Brockovich, started with a 1.6 rating. The Jan. 17 premiere increased the network's Friday 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. time slot by 33 percent, Lifetime senior vice president of research Tim Brooks said, even though it went head-to-head with Turner Network Television's original movie Monte Walsh, which generated an impressive 5.7 cable rating.

"Over time, I think the ratings will continue to rise," said Brooks. "Fridays have been a difficult night for us, and Final Justice
brought the night's ratings back up again."

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