USA Set to Pin a 2006 Ratings Win


New York— Boosted by professional wrestling fare, USA Network this year is expected to wear the crown as cable’s No. 1-rated network in primetime viewing, total viewers and several key demographics.

“This will be their first year doing that in awhile,” said Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting System.

USA, aided in part by its presentation of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Raw franchise on Monday nights, is enjoying a banner year, not only in overall viewers but with primetime audiences 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54.

Disney Channel said that it will rank No. 2 this year in total primetime viewers for basic cable, behind USA but ahead of third-place Turner Network Television.

During his year-end ratings press conference here last Wednesday, Wakshlag also reported that for the first November sweeps ever, cable beat the six broadcast networks in terms of primetime share of adults 18 to 49. Cable racked up a 42.5 share in that demographic, while broadcast came in at a 39.7, for the November sweep, according to a Turner analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

And for the fifth consecutive year, cable is pacing to beat the six broadcast networks in household share in primetime. For 2006 to date, cable has a 55.4 share, versus 40.4 for the six broadcast networks.

When the full year is completed, Wakshlag projected that cable would wind up with a 55.5 share, compared with broadcast’s 40.3.

As cable increases its share of viewing, its ad revenue has also expanded, although it is still disproportionate to the medium’s piece of the audience, according to Wakshlag.

This year to date, the broadcast networks garnered 69% of primetime ad dollars, or $10.72 billion, while cable collected 31%, or $4.77 billion. Yet broadcast only has a 40% share of the primetime audience, versus cable’s 55% take.

For the second consecutive year, TNT will rank first among adults 18 to 49 and 25 to 54 for total-day delivery among ad-supported cable networks, according to the Turner research analysis.