Cable Stood Ground In ‘09-10 TV Season

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Basic-cable networks held serve over
their broadcast television counterparts with regard to
share of primetime television households during the
2009-10 television season.

The cable industry averaged a 59 share of television
households for the period of Sept. 28, 2009, to May 26,
2010, matching last season’s performance and besting the
broadcast networks’ 39 share, according to a Disney-ABC
Television Group analysis of Nielsen numbers.

While the industry didn’t lose any ground to the broadcast
networks during the season, cable’s failure to increase
its year-to-year share is noteworthy given cable’s
recent dominance of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, noted TV
historian Tim Brooks.

“Cable needs to keep its eye on the ball, which means
a continual flow of fresh, breakout programming — networks
cannot get complacent,” Brooks said. “I don’t think
any huge collapse is coming right away, but there’s always
a possibility that it could move backwards a year.”

The cable industry was paced by USA Network, which
averaged 3.1 million primetime viewers during the period,
easily outdistancing ESPN, which drew 2.5 million
viewers. Disney Channel finished third with 2.4 million
viewers, followed by Fox News Channel and TNT, each of
which averaged 2.1 million viewers.

TBS (1.9 million viewers); Nick at Nite (1.7 million); A&E
Network (1.5 million); History (1.4 million) and ABC Family
(1.4 million) rounded out the top 10 networks for the
television season, according to Nielsen.

USA was also tops for the last month of the 2009-10 TV
season, averaging 3 million viewers for the month of May
and holding off TNT, which rode its coverage of the National
Basketball Association playoffs to a 2.9 million audience
average. Disney finished third with 2.3 million
viewers, while ESPN (2.2 million) and Fox News (1.8. million)
secured the fourth and fifth spots, respectively.

TNT’s and ESPN’s postseason National Basketball Associaton
coverage dominated the most-watched programming
list in May, with hoop playoff telecasts occupying
the top 15 programs for the month. ESPN’s May 13 Cleveland
Cavaliers-Boston Celtics Eastern Conference semifinals telecast, which averaged 8.9 million viewers, topped
that list, according to Nielsen.