Basic cable continued to steam ahead in July, with
primetime ratings soaring 13 percent, officials said last week.
For the first time, in July, cable's primetime ratings
outranked those of the "Big Four" broadcast networks, 22.8 to 21.7, according to
Turner Entertainment Research figures based on Nielsen Media Research data. The broadcast
networks lost 7 percent off their ratings, falling from a 23.3 a year ago.
Cable's July gains kept pace with the ratings
increases that it has seen throughout the year, according to Bob Sieber, vice president of
audience development for Turner Networks.
Cable still trails the six broadcast networks, but just
barely, as they drew a 23.1 rating. Also in July, pay cable grew 10 percent in primetime,
from 4.0 to 4.4.
In primetime, Barry Diller's USA Network ranked No. 1,
jumping 9 percent to a 2.4 rating. Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite and Turner Network Television
tied for the No. 2 slot, each with a 2.0 rating. But while Nick was up 5 percent, TNT was
flat compared with a year ago.
TBS Superstation and Lifetime Television tied for fourth
place in primetime, each with a 1.8 rating. TBS was down 10 percent, while Lifetime was up
Cartoon Network enjoyed a strong July, up 31 percent in
primetime with a 1.7 rating. Cartoon is attributing its gains to its new program strategy
of stripping Dexter's Laboratory and Cow and Chicken in primetime. For
total day, Cartoon's ratings were up 22 percent, to a 1.1, No. 2 behind top-ranked
Nick at 1.7.
Several networks recorded massive primetime-ratings gains
in July. The Family Channel, which relaunches Aug. 15 as Fox Family Channel, saw its
ratings increase 67 percent, to a 1.5. VH1 was also up 67 percent, to a 0.5.
Among the news-oriented networks, Fox News Channel, CNBC
and MSNBC did well in primetime. FNC was up 100 percent, to a 0.2. CNBC jumped 50 percent,
to a 0.6. MSNBC was also up 50 percent, to a 0.3. In contrast, Cable News Network was down
20 percent, to a 0.8.
The Learning Channel and FX were both up 50 percent, each
to a 0.9 primetime rating. Food Network doubled its ratings, to a 0.4, as did The Travel
Channel, to a 0.2. And The History Channel and Comedy Central were both up 20 percent,
each to a 0.6.
A&E Network and Discovery Channel saw slippage in their
primetime ratings. A&E was down 7 percent, to a 1.3, and Discovery was off 9 percent,
to a 1.0.
Among the broadcast networks, CBS and NBC tied for the lead
in primetime, each with a 6.5 average followed by ABC at 5.5, Fox at 4.5, WB at 2.4 and
UPN at 1.8. UPN fell the most, by 28 percent, while ABC, NBC and Fox all dropped by 8
percent. Only WB picked up, gaining 4 percent from July 1997.