Last week proved a ratings bonanza for cable's marquee original programming, as offerings such as Sci Fi Channel's Frank Herbert's Dune
racked up record numbers.
The $20 million, three-part miniseries averaged a 4.4 rating, or 2.9 million households, according to Nielsen Media Research data supplied by Sci Fi. The first installment, which debuted Dec. 3, posted a 4.6 rating, almost doubling all of the network's prior viewership records.
The network has already placed an order for a script for a Dune
sequel with writer/ director John Harrison.
Sci Fi wasn't the only cable network to debut a highly rated miniseries in recent weeks. The History Channel's four-part miniseries about America's forefathers, Founding Fathers,
turned out to be the second highest-rated miniseries in the network's history. It averaged a 1.8 rating-or 1.2 million households-over each of the four nights it aired, from Nov. 27 to 30, according to Nielsen data cited by The History Channel.
Founding Fathers'performance finished behind only The History of Sex,
which garnered a 2.5 rating for History in August 1999.
The premium services were also represented in last week's grand ratings harvest for cable. Showtime debuted its controversial new original show Queer as Folk,based on the British series of the same name but set in Pittsburgh. It posted a 4.5 rating in Showtime's universe on Dec. 3, which roughly translates to 1 million households.
The audience for the first episode of Queer as Folk,
about a group of young gay men and their sexual adventures, was 40 percent male, 40 percent female and 20 percent kids (ages 2 to 11) and teens. The biggest demographic group represented in its audience was men 18 to 34 years old.
Regarding the kid and teen audience the provocative show attracted, a Showtime spokeswoman said, "We are certainly aware that adult content is not appropriate for everyone and strive to be responsible programmers. For this reason, we were careful to schedule Queer as Folk
with the time-of-day in mind at 10 p.m."
In addition, the premiere episode carried a TVMA television rating (for mature audiences only) and viewer advisories for adult content, graphic language, nudity and strong sexual content, she said.
Also last week, Courtroom Television Network debuted the three-part special Brooklyn North Homicide Squad,
a documentary the crime-and- justice network hopes to develop into a signature series. Its debut episode posted a 1.1 rating, more than double Court TV's 0.5 fourth-quarter average for the 10 p.m. period, said a network spokeswoman.
Dune,Queer as Folk
and Brooklyn North Homicide Squad
were promoted heavily by their respective networks, with multimillion-dollar marketing budgets helping to propel audience numbers. Court TV, for example, spent $5 million-or about 20 percent of its annual advertising budget-to promote Brooklyn North.