TNT Wins May Ratings Race

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Turner Network Television led the way in May's primetime household ratings, despite a double-digit drop from last year. The general-entertainment network also donned the demographic diadem among adults.

TNT took the top spot in primetime with a 1.9 average during the April 30 through May 27 time period, according to a Turner Entertainment Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. The win came even as its ratings fell by 17 percent from the 2.3 rating the network averaged from May 1 through May 28, 2000.

Across the segment, basic cable registered an 8 percent rise in primetime to a 25.9 average in May, up from a 24 the prior year. Household delivery jumped 10 percent, to nearly 26.5 million from 24.2 million.

By contrast, the broadcast industry sustained further erosion. The seven-network weighted viewership total declined 9 percent, to a 30.5 from a 33.6, according to the Turner analysis. That translated into an 8-percent drop in delivery to 31.1 million from 33.8 million a year ago.

Back on the cable beat, Lifetime Television dropped to No. 2 after winning the first-quarter and April primetime ratings races. The network averaged a 1.7 rating — a 6 percent increase from May 2000, according to the Turner analysis.

USA Network, down 24 percent, and Cartoon Network, off 6 percent, were tied for third with a 1.6 average.

TBS Superstation and Nickelodeon, both of which suffered a 17 percent decline, were next at 1.5.

Rounding out the top 10: A&E Network (down 8 percent) and ESPN (a 21 percent decline) at 1.1 apiece; Discovery Channel, flat at a 1.0; and TNN: The National Network (a 50 percent jump) and The History Channel (even), with 0.9 averages.

Networks that posted major primetime ratings gains included: FX, up 33 percent to a 0.8 rating; Comedy Central, ahead 20 percent to a 0.6 rating; and Travel Channel and Odyssey Network, both surging by 100 percent to a 0.4 rating.

Nickelodeon won the total-day ratings race with a 1.3 rating, down 13 percent from last year. Lifetime placed second in total-day measurement with a 1.2 average.

Turner vice president of audience development Bob Sieber attributed the ratings decline to "soft" ratings for TBS' Atlanta Braves baseball telecasts, as well as a shift of several marquee movie premieres to its fourth-quarter schedule, in anticipation of the now settled Writer's Guild of America strike.

Poor ratings for TNT and TBS National Basketball Association playoff games didn't help either. Turner Sports' playoff coverage averaged a 2.3 rating, down 18 percent from a 2.8 average for 38 games during the 2000 playoff season.

Nevertheless, Sieber pointed out that TNT also was basic cable's leader in the advertiser-coveted adult 18-through-34 (591,000), 18-through-49 (1.21 million) and 25-through-54 (1.19 million) demographics.

"The key for us is that TBS and TNT took the top two spots for the 18-49 and the 25-54 audience in primetime, despite the decline," Sieber said.

Meanwhile, Fox News Channel continued to pound Cable News Network in the all-news ratings competition, beating its rival in primetime for the eighth month in a row.

FNC pulled a 0.6 primetime rating, a 50 percent increase over last year's numbers. CNN averaged a 0.5 rating, even with last May's numbers. CNBC generated a 0.3 rating, while CNN Headline News averaged a 0.2 rating. Both were flat compared to last year's numbers.

Steve Donohue and Mike Reynolds contributed to this story.

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