Basic cable started off September with a bang, stacking up its highest-ever weekly primetime share for a reporting period — a 55.6 — during the month.
Cable's household share was up 2.4 points, an increase of 4.5%, for the week of Sept. 1 to 7 when compared with the same period a year ago, according to a Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. In fact, cable's share was 18.1 points greater than the seven broadcast networks, which had a 37.5 share combined.
In other audience measures for the week, cable's delivery stood at nearly 35 million homes — up 6.1%, or 11.4 million more homes than the broadcasters. The medium's rating improved 4.5% to a 32.3 average, 10.2 points greater than the broadcasters.
Bolstered by the continued strength of Law & Order, Turner Network Television won the week, notching a 2.7 household average. ESPN, boosted by its first National Football League contest of the season, was No. 2 with a 2.6 average, according to an ABC Cable Network Group analysis of Nielsen data.
Lifetime Television was third with a 1.9, followed by Disney Channel at a 1.8 and Nickelodeon's 1.7.
Cartoon Network finished sixth with a 1.6 average. There was a five-way tie for seventh among TBS Superstation, USA Network, Discovery Channel, FX and Fox News Channel; each averaged a 1.2.
Gauged on a total-day basis, perennial leader Nick edged out TNT, boosted by a Labor Day Law & Order
marathon, by a 1.5 to a 1.4 count. Lifetime was third with a 1.3, while Disney and Cartoon were tied for fourth at a 1.2.
Among the key adult demo groups, ESPN was king in primetime for the week, while TNT finished second. The total sports network ranked first among adults 18 to 34 (786,000 of those viewers on average, vs. 581,000 for the drama service), adults 18 to 49 (1.65 million vs. 1.53 million), and adults 25 to 54 (1.67 million vs. 1.64 million).
ESPN's Nielsen fire was fueled by the Sept. 7 rematch of last season's American Football Conference championship game between the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Titans. Tennessee's 25-20 triumph earned an 8.9 household rating, making it the highest-rated show on basic cable this year.
Although the contest beat out 16 of the 18 NFL games ESPN aired last season, Titans-Raiders fell short compared to ESPN's first two contests in the 2002 season: a 9.4 for San Francisco-New York for the league's season opener on Thursday Sept. 5; and a 9.6 for Houston-Dallas on Sept. 8, the net's first Sunday-night game last year.