Cable Ratings Rise Slows in 2Q

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Basic cable's primetime-ratings growth slowed down a bit in
the second quarter, to a single-digit gain, but the medium still expects to break
viewership records this summer.

<p>Rank</p><p>Network</p><p>2Q '99</p><p>2Q '98</p><p>% Chg.</p>

1

USA

2.4

2.2

+9%

2

TNT

2.1

2.3

-9%

3

Nick

2.0

1.9

+5%

4

TBS

1.9

1.9

0

5

Cartoon

1.6

1.4

+14%

6

Lifetime

1.4

1.6

-13%

7

A&E

1.3

1.3

0

8

ESPN

1.2

1.3

-8%

9

Discovery

1.1

1.1

0

10

CNN

0.9

0.8

+13%

10

MTV

0.9

0.7

+29%

10

TLC

0.9

0.8

+13%

10

WGN

0.9

0.8

+13%

14

TNN

0.8

0.8

0

14

Fox Family

0.8

1.3

-38%

14

TV Land

0.8

0.7

+14%

17

History

0.7

0.6

+17%

17

Sci-Fi

0.7

0.7

0

19

VH1

0.6

0.5

+20%

19

Comedy

0.6

0.7

-14%

19

HGTV

0.6

0.5

+20%

19

BET

0.6

0.5

+20%

19

FX

0.6

0.8

-25%

24

CNBC

0.5

0.6

-17%

24

ESPN2

0.5

0.4

+25%

24

E!

0.5

0.4

+25%

24

MSNBC

0.5

0.3

+67%

24

FNC

0.5

0.2

+150%

29

TV Guide

0.4

0.4

0

29

Animal

0.4

0.4

0

31

TWC

0.3

0.3

0

31

Headline

0.3

0.2

+50%

31

Food

0.3

0.3

0

31

CMT

0.3

0.3

0

31

Court

0.3

0.1

+200%

31

Bravo

0.3

0.2

+50%

37

Travel

0.2

0.2

0

37

Odyssey

0.2

n.a.

n.a.

Source: Turner Entertainment Research from Nielsen Media Research data

Ad-supported cable was up 8 percent compared with last
year's second quarter in primetime ratings, to a 23.9 from a 22.2, according to Nielsen
Media Research data supplied last week by Turner Entertainment Research.

That paces behind the double-digit ratings gains in the low
to mid-teens that cable has seen in the past eight quarters or so.

Nonetheless, cable still broke records: It posted its
highest-ever primetime viewership in a second quarter, reaching 23.8 million households, a
9 percent increase, according to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

In the just-ended quarter, wrestling continued to fuel
cable's ratings growth.

The period was also filled with breaking news -- the
high-school murders in Littleton, Colo.; the crisis in Kosovo; the Oklahoma tornado
disaster; and the royal wedding of England's Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones -- which
gave the all-news channels huge viewership boosts.

The "Big Four" broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS,
NBC and Fox -- saw their primetime ratings slip 6 percent in the second quarter, to a 26.9
from a 28.5.

CAB vice president of research Jonathan Sims said he wasn't
concerned about cable's single-digit ratings growth in the second quarter, adding that
cable couldn't continue to see breakneck double-digit growth indefinitely.

"If the numbers started going south, then I'd be
concerned," Sims said.

Robert Sieber, Turner's vice president of audience
development, noted that cable had picked up 2 million viewers in the second quarter, and
that with the 8 percent primetime-ratings gain, it was "at the lower end of the
range" of how it has performed in the past.

But he and Sims both pointed out that cable's ratings base
-- now nearly a 24 -- has grown larger, making it harder to rack up double-digit
percentage gains.

"The base against which the percentages are figured is
bigger," Sieber said. "But cable's fundamentals are still very strong."

In terms of individual cable networks in the second
quarter, USA Network continued to reign as the No. 1 cable network in primetime. Still
buoyed by its monstrous wrestling ratings, USA posted a 2.4 rating in primetime, up 9
percent from its showing in the year-ago quarter, according to Nielsen.

Turner Network Television ranked second with a 2.1 rating,
down 9 percent from a year ago. Nickelodeon was third with a 2.0 rating, up 5 percent,
while TBS Superstation racked up a 1.9 rating, flat versus a year ago. Cartoon Network
ranked No. 5 in primetime with a 1.6, an increase of 14 percent.

USA Networks Inc. senior vice president of research Tim
Brooks maintained that USA's strong showing flies in the face of the conventional wisdom
that established networks would be cannibalized and lose viewers to their newer cable
rivals.

"We're a broad-based network, so we're supposed to be
subject to fragmentation," he said. "But we don't have the peaks and valleys
that a lot of networks do. It's a great setup for the summer."

Brooks added, "The soft NBA [National Basketball
Association]" playoff games on TNT also helped USA's numbers.

USA's World Wrestling Federation shows dominated the list
of cable's top-100-rated cable programs in the second quarter, with its May 10 show doing
a whopping 8.4.

The biggest gainer in the second quarter in primetime:
Courtroom Television Network, which saw its primetime-lineup revamping propel it to a 0.3
rating, up 200 percent. The next biggest gainer was Fox News Channel, up 150 percent in
primetime, to a 0.5. MSNBC saw a 67 percent jump in its ratings, to a 0.5.

All-news channels FNC, MSNBC and Cable News Network got
second-quarter lifts in their ratings from their coverage of Littleton, Yugoslavia and the
royal wedding. CNN rose 13 percent in primetime, to a 0.9.

MTV: Music Television and VH1 posted strong second-quarter
numbers. MTV was up 29 percent in primetime, to a 0.9. MTV's total-day rating for its
target audience of 12 to 34 was up 25 percent versus a year ago, to a 0.5 from a 0.4.

In the second quarter, the 1999 MTV Movie Awards won
its highest rating ever, a 6.4, and live daily show Total Request Live has seen its
household ratings soar 123 percent since its debut last September.

"All of our events have done well in the past, but
now, every daypart is doing well," MTV president Judy McGrath said. "The changes
we started a year-and-a-half ago have really kicked in. TRL has galvanizedthe
whole network. It makes us feel very alive and lively."

McGrath credited Brian Graden -- whom she promoted to the
post of executive vice president of programming in the fall of 1997 -- with developing a
raft of new music-centered shows that have jump-started ratings.

MTV's sister service, VH1, enjoyed its highest-rated
quarter ever in primetime, up 20 percent to a 0.6. VH1's Divas Live '99 posted a
3.7 rating April 13 -- the network's highest-rated single telecast ever.

In the second quarter, the biggest primetime-ratings losers
were Fox Family Channel, down 38 percent to a 0.8; FX, down 25 percent to a 0.6; CNBC,
down 17 percent to a 0.5; and Comedy Central, down 14 percent to a 0.6.

Fox Family, which changed its format and program schedule
last summer, saw its older viewers flee, driving down its numbers.

At Comedy Central, South Park's ratings peaked a
year ago. Comedy also aired fewer new episodes of the raunchy animated show during this
year's second quarter than in the second quarter of last year.

In total-day ratings in the second quarter, Nick was No. 1
with a 1.5, flat versus a year ago. Cartoon tied with TBS for the No. 2 slot, with both
getting 1.1 ratings. Cartoon rose 22 percent, and TBS was up 10 percent.

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