Is Disney Ready to Inch By Nick?

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After narrowing the gap considerably
over the past year, Disney Channel could finally edge Nickelodeon
in total-day ratings among kids 2 to 11 in February,
putting an end to a 16-year run by the Viacom-owned service.
Going into the final days of the Nielsen month, Disney was nipping
at the kids kingpin’s heel with that group.

While Nickelodeon has ceded leadership to Disney
Channel among kids 6 to 11 and tweens 9 to 14 — the latter
has topped the total-day chart with those groups for the
past nine and 21 months, respectively — the Viacom-owned
channel has never surrendered its total-day perch atop the
broad kids’ demo, as well as with total viewers, over the past
16 years. That could change when the final Nielsen numbers
are tallied for February.

Both networks declined to comment.

Entering the final four days of Nielsen’s February — the
month ends from the measurement company’s perspective
on Sunday, Feb. 26 — Nickelodeon held a 1% edge with
929,000 kids 2-to-11 watchers, compared with 922,000 for Disney
Channel, according to Nielsen data from Jan. 30 through
Feb. 22. It also maintained a 4% advantage with a 2.3 rating versus
a 2.2 for Disney over that span with the 24-hour measure.

That continues a total-day trend. Where Disney trailed Nick
by 25% among kids 2 to 11 (930,000 to 1.24 million) and 27%
in ratings (2.2 versus a 3.0) with the group last February, it
has been gaining
ground on
Nick, even if
both have been
shedding kids’
viewers. To that
end, Nick parent
has questioned
Nielsen’s numbers
and the
apparent loss of
children from the sample set. Disney trailed Nick by 6% in the
demo in November and by 4% in December. Last month, the
networks both averaged a 2.2 demo rating, with Nick ahead
only 1% with 912,000 kids 2 to 11, versus 904,000 of those
watchers for Disney.

And Disney appears to have even more momentum. Boosted
by the Feb. 17 premiere of original telefilm Radio Rebel,
Disney, which generally outperforms its competitor over weekends,
was first in the demo the week of Feb. 13-19, topping this
chart for the fifth time in the last seven weeks.

Heading into the weekend, the race could turn on the number
of kids 2 to 11 watching such entries as Fred: The Series,
How to Rock and House of Anubis on Nick, while Disney’s lineup
includes Austin & Ally, A.N.T. Farm and Jessie. The Nielsen
data is scheduled to be released Feb. 28.