USA Concludes Q1 Atop Cable's Primetime Ratings

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USA Network was the top-rated primetime cable network in the first quarter, a solid margin ahead of second-place Disney Channel, according to Nielsen Media Research data released Tuesday.

USA garnered a 2.2 household rating in the first quarter, flat compared to the year-ago quarter, according to a Disney-ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen data. Disney Channel ranked No. 2 in primetime with a 1.9 rating, slipping 10% from the year-ago period.

TNT placed third in the first quarter, with a 1.7 rating, up 6%, followed by TBS and Fox News Channel, tied for fourth place with a 1.5 rating each. TBS and Fox New Channel each saw a 7% gain in households.

TBS’s primetime delivery of adults 18 to 34, at 1.2 million, outranked both MTV and broadcast’s The CW, according to a Turner Research analysis of Nielsen data.

Nick at Nite drew a 1.4 rating, up 17%, followed by Lifetime Television and Hallmark Channel, each with 1.2 ratings average. Lifetime saw a, 8% decrease, while Hallmark was flat compared with a year ago.

Five networks registered a 1.1 rating in the first quarter, namely A&E Network, ESPN, FX, History and TruTV. A&E dropped 15%; ESPN saw a 10% gain; FX was flat versus last year; History recorded a nice 22% increase; and TruTv, formerly Court TV, was flat versus the year-ago period.

That group was followed another five-way tie, for a 1.0 rating, for Spike TV, CNN, Cartoon Network, HGTV and Discovery Channel. Spike TV and HGTV’s ratings were flat; CNN was up 43%; Cartoon Network was down 17%; and Discovery Channel sustained a 10% decrease.

The election season has proved a boon to the all-news channels, but particularly for CNN. For the first time since the fourth quarter in 2001, CNN bested Fox News Channel in primetime for a full quarter in the key demographic advertisers seek in new channels, adults 25 to 54.

CNN drew 444,000 viewers of that age group during the first quarter in primetime, an 87% increase, ahead of Fox News’s 430,000, a 10% jump, according to Disney-ABC’s analysis. MSNBC attracted 325,000 viewers 25 to 54, a 66% gain

However, Fox New Channel maintained its position as the No. 1 news network in total viewers in primetime, with 1.8 million, up 13% from the year-ago quarter. CNN drew 1.3 million viewers, up 64%, while MSNBC garnered 780,000, a 57% increase.

CNN had four of the top-10 rated cable programs in the first quarter, topped by its Jan. 31 coverage of the California Democratic presidential candidate debate Jan. 31, the No. 1 telecast in the quarter with a 6.2 rating. The forum's 8.3 million viewers was second only to the Nick's Fairly Odd Parents telefilm, Fairly Odd Baby, which garnered 9.18 million viewers on Feb. 18.

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