NBC’s coverage of the London Summer Olympics helped torpedo audience share for cable networks during the third quarter.
Ad-supported cable networks garnered a 50 share of total viewers during the period of June 25 to Sept. 30, a drop from a 54 share during the same period last year, according to Nielsen. At the same time audience share for broadcast networks (including the Peacock) jumped to 25 from a 23 share a year prior.
Industry executives say much of that increase was due to NBC’s ratings-gold Summer Olympics performance. Over the 17 days of the games that began in late July, NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage averaged 31.1 million viewers per night — its best viewership tally since the 1996 summer games.
USA Network finished first among ad-supported, entertainment- based networks for the 25th consecutive quarter, although its 3.1 million-viewer take was down 13% from third-quarter 2011, according to Nielsen. (USA’s quarterly ratings streak does not take into account sports network ESPN’s six consecutive years of football-fueled fourthquarter wins, or ad-free Disney Channel’s third-quarter 2007 win.)
Disney Channel topped Nickelodeon for top honors among total viewers on a 24-hour basis. It’s the first loss for Nickelodeon since the fourth quarter of 1994, which USA Network won.
Despite competition from the Olympics, a number of networks posted record third-quarter primetime performances. Sports network Fuel posted the biggest yearto- year increase, pinning down a 200% gain to 42,000 viewers, due mostly to its Ultimate Fighting Championship programming. Other networks posting 25% or greater primetime audience growth, include: NFL Network (up 75%); NBA TV (67%); OWN and The Hub (both 54%); Velocity (47%); TBS (42%); Sprout (40%); Bio (39%); Inspiration Network and Nat Geo Wild (37%); H2 (34%) and mun2 (30%), per Nielsen.
Networks struggling with 2011 comparisons in the quarter included HLN (down 53%); Fox Soccer Channel (-43%); TeenNick (-39%); MTV (-37%); Galavisión (-36%); Cloo (-36%); and Nick at Nite (-34%).