November to Remember for Cable

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Cable is establishing a Thanksgiving tradition: It’s taken another November sweep from broadcast.

For the second year in a row, cable won the November sweep in primetime, outperforming the seven broadcast networks and continuing its years-long trend of grabbing audience share.

Cable tallied a 53.1 primetime household share, up 3.1% from last year, compared with 46.6 for the broadcast networks, which were flat, according to a Turner Entertainment Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

Cable also widened its lead over broadcast. Last November -- the first sweep in that month that cable ever won -- it racked up a 51.5 share compared with broadcast’s 46.6.

When cable won the November sweep for the first time last year, Turner chief research officer Jack Wakshlag predicted that broadcast would never win another sweep period again. And he’s been right so far.

“What’s going on is a continuation of what we’ve seen to this point,” Wakshlag said.

The last sweep period for which broadcast scored a victory was back in February 2004, according to Wakshlag.

Broadcasters may have suffered this November because they didn’t do any of the big-event programming that’s usually reserved for sweep periods, according to Tim Brooks, executive vice president of research for Lifetime Television.

“The networks may rethink to some degree their lack of stunting,” he said. “Stunts do create excitement, bring viewers back, give you promotional platforms … You really need to do something to bring people in.”

Nielsen has different time frames for data for the November sweep period and for the month of November. This year, the sweep period ran Nov. 3-30, while data for the month of November spanned Oct. 31-Nov. 27. The sweeps are important because advertisers use ratings from those four months to calculate prices for commercials.

In primetime for the month of November, ESPN was the No. 1-ranked cable network with a 2.5 rating, up 14% from last November, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Groupanalysis of Nielsen data. ESPN’s football coverage -- both National Football League and college -- helped to increase its ratings score. In fact, the top four cable shows in November were Sunday-night NFL games on ESPN.

Coming up second in the primetime rankings was USA Network, which garnered a 2.3 rating, an increase of 21%. The addition of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc.’s Monday Night RAW this November added some bulk and muscle to USA’s numbers. In fact, November was the strongest month in almost six years for USA among total viewers and the 18-34 and 18-49 demographics.

Disney Channel was No. 3 in primetime, up 19% with a 1.9 rating. The network benefited from several holiday stunts centered around Thanksgiving, including its “Stuffed with Stars Marathon,” a lineup of movies and one episode of That’s So Raven.

Turner Network Television was fourth and dipped in the numbers to a 1.8, a 10% slip from last November.

Three networks -- TBS, Nick at Nite and Fox News Channel -- tied for fifth place with 1.5 ratings. TBS was flat and Nick at Nite was down 12%. Without the benefit of the presidential election, which was held last November, Fox News dropped 21%.

Similarly, Cable News Network saw a 22% decrease, registering a 0.7 rating in primetime. MSNBC was flat with a 0.4.

Lifetime Television and Cartoon Network each did a 1.4 in primetime. Both networks were down 13%.

Hallmark Channel and Spike TV rounded out the top 10 in primetime, each with 1.1 ratings.

Hallmark continued to see ratings growth, up 22%. Spike dropped 21%.

FX, TV Land and The History Channel each racked up 1.0 primetime ratings. FX was up 11%, TV Land posted a dramatic 43% increase and History was flat.

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