Neither pig-stabbing Survivors in the Outback nor couples tempted by
infidelity on an island could halt basic cable's ratings growth in February.
Cable racked up a tidy 11 percent gain in primetime for the month, posting a
27.0 rating compared with 24.3 a year ago, according to Turner Entertainment
Research based on Nielsen Media Research data.
Despite a flood of blockbuster broadcast-sweeps programming -- such as
Survivor: The Australian Outback and Temptation Island -- ratings
for the 'Big Four' still dropped 5 percent in primetime last month. ABC, CBS,
NBC and Fox slid to a 30.5 rating from a 32.2 a year ago.
In what creates a rather confusing situation when it comes to explaining
ratings, Nielsen provides different sets of viewership data for the month of
February, which it defines as Jan. 29 to Feb. 25, and the period it calls the
February sweeps, which occurred Feb. 1 to 28.
Based on Nielsen's month-of-February data, USA Network hit No. 1 in the
monthly primetime ratings for the first time since it lost the World Wrestling
Federation in September. It tied with TBS Superstation for the top ranking, each
posting a 2.0.
But USA was down from a 2.4 a year ago, a 17 percent drop from when the
network still had the wrestling programming that is now on TNN: The National
Network and MTV: Music Television.
Last month, USA got a viewership boost from miniseries Attila and its
Westminster Dog Show coverage. In fact, part 1 of Attila was the
highest-rated cable program in Nielsen's month-of-February period with a 6.1
However, using Nielsen's February-sweeps numbers -- which don't include Jan.
30 and 31, when the two parts of Attila aired -- USA falls to No. 3 in
primetime with a 1.8 rating. It slips behind both TBS and Lifetime Television,
which posted 1.9 ratings.
And for the February sweeps period, basic cable did better -- and broadcast
did worse -- than in the month of February. Cable was up 12 percent for the
sweeps, while the Big Four were down 10 percent.
Monica Hogan contributed to this story.