Nickelodeon has become the first cable network to win the
Saturday-morning ratings battle among children aged 2 to 11 for an entire TV season --
across the entire 98 million TV universe.
In the recently-concluded 1997-98 season, Nickelodeon
averaged a 4.1 rating and 18 share in the kids' demo, according to Nielsen Media
Research, beating Fox Kids (3.5 rating/16 share), ABC (3.4/16), WB (2.1/9) and CBS
(0.5/2). The daypart covers 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Nickelodeon is available in 72.5 million homes --
approximately 25 million fewer than its network broadcast rivals.
Ellen Oppenheim, media director for Foote, Cone &
Belding in New York, pointed out that it would be unfair for cable to declare a complete
victory over the networks, since the broadcasters' primary yardstick of success is
Nonetheless, she said, if a cable network "emerges as
No. 1 [on the weekend] now, you have to ask what that means for the future."
She praised Nickelodeon for providing "consistent
programming that is easily identifiable by a target audience. And in a market where needs
are simple, that strategy resonates with the kids' audience."
In fact, much of Nickelodeon's programming consists of
reruns of popular cartoon series like Rugrats and Angry Beavers. One
ad-agency executive made the point that unlike broadcast networks, Nickelodeon could
promote its Saturday-morning lineup to its target audience all week long.
A leading cable executive said Nick's Saturday-morning
ratings win was "yet another indication that cable is stealing broadcast's share
of the audience."