Season’s Beatings for Basic Cable


With a handful of days left, basic cable is poised to win its first-ever traditional TV season.

Basic had posted a 49.8 primetime share for the 2003-04 season to date (spanning Sept. 22, 2003, through May 18), versus a 47.3 for the seven broadcast networks, according to a Turner Broadcasting System Inc. analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

This continued trend line represents a 2.4-share-point advance for cable compared with a 0.9 share loss for the broadcasters.

The traditional TV season ends May 26. In 2003, cable won the primetime race for a calendar year for the first time.

Turner chief research officer Jack Wakshlag said basic cable was also nearing another milestone: Its first primetime victory in the May sweeps, when broadcasters juice up their programming to help affiliates establish advertising rates.

From April 29-May 18, cable held a 49.3 share in primetime, up from a 46.9 last May, while the broadcasters had slipped to a 47.9 from a 49.4 a year ago. Wakshlag didn’t expect the tide to turn, noting that the series finales of Friends and Frasier were already done.

Cable had previously only won July sweeps periods, he added.

According to Turner, broadcast’s erosion has largely been across the board.

Collectively, during the season to date, the seven networks were off 4% in households, 8% among adults 18-34, 7% among adults 18-49 and 3% with adults 25-54.

CBS did notch gains of 2% in households, 3% among adults 18-49 and 4% among the older set.