TNT Converts Hoops Into May Primetime Triumph

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May was a merry month for TNT when it came to the Nielsens.

Bolstered by its coverage of the National Basketball Association playoffs, the “drama” network was basic cable’s best in primetime with a 2.3 average, a 10% increase over the 2.1 mark it recorded in May 2007, according to a Disney ABC Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. The “40 Games In 40 Nights” stunt dunked 12 of the top 30 shows during the April 28 through May 25 period, including the top two and five of the first seven.

USA Network, which had won the first 16 weekly run-offs in primetime this year until the pro hoop playoffs arrived and pushed TNT to the top spot during the last five, was second with a 2.0 average, up 5% from a 1.9 a year ago. Officials at the “characters” network said the NBC Universal service had its best May ever, relative to households (1.9 million)  total viewers (2.53 million viewers), persons 18 to 34 (551,000), adults 18 to 49 (1.19 million) and adults 25 to 54 (1.17 million).   

Disney Channel was third at a 1.6 household, albeit despite an 11% decline from a 1.6. Sister service ESPN, also benefiting from the NBA’s post-season, was fourth at 1.5%, which represented a 25% leap from the corresponding year-earlier period. Recording a 27% gain, Nick at Nite was fifth with a 1.4, compared with a 1.2.

TBS and Fox News Channel were next, both notching 18% advances to a 1.3 from a 1.1.

Fox News, which now has sat atop the cable news sector for 77 consecutive months, saw competitors CNN and MSNBC also ring up gains: the former grew 33% to a 0.8 from a 0.6, while MSNBC rose 50% to a 0.6 from a 0.4.

Lifetime Television was eighth with a 1.1 as the women’s programmer matched its household rating average from May 2007.

A quartet of networks rounded out the top 10 in primetime, all with a 1.0 average: Discovery grew 25% from a 0.8, while Sci Fi Channel and Hallmark improved 11% from a 0.9. Conversely, Cartoon Network was off 9% from a 1.1.

Finishing just outside the group were A&E Network, Spike TV and HGTV all of which matched their 0.9 marks from May 2007. History, ahead 13% from a 0.8 last year, was also in the group.

Of the 69 networks in the Disney ABC analysis, 24 posted primetime household ratings amelioration in May, while 35 sustained declines. The remaining 10 networks were flat versus the year-earlier span.

Gauged on a total-day basis, Nickelodeon was in its familiar first-place perch with a 1.7 household average (up 6% from a 1.6) in May, 0.4 points ahead of channel-sharer Nick at Nite’s 1.3 (an 18% increase from a 1.1). TNT was third with a 1.2 (9% from a 1.1), while Disney and USA were next with a 1.1 and 1.0, respectively. Both of those networks were even with their May 2007 total-day averages.

As for individual programs, it was mostly hoops: eight of the top 10 shows were NBA playoff games. TNT, had three of the top four: the May 19 Game 7 contest in which the San Antonio Spurs advanced past the New Orleans Hornets was first with 6.55 million viewers; the first game of the Spurs-Los Angeles Lakers Western Conference finals two nights later was second with a 6.19 million; and the third game of that series on May 25 was fourth with 5.73 million watchers on average. ESPN’s best game, the May 22 Eastern Conference final matchup between the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons, was fifth with just under 5.7 million. USA’s presentation of the first installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, Raiders of the Lost Ark, was third with 5.84 million viewers on May 10.

The top original cable entertainment show for the month was Nick’s telefilm, Chasing Zoey, which was 10th with 5.35 million on May 2.

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