USA, TBS Win Q1 Ratings Crown

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Basic-cable channels
USA Network and TBS were
the big winners during the
just completed first-quarter
ratings period.

USA, the “Characters Welcome”
network, averaged 3
million viewers during the period
of Dec. 26, 2011, to March
25, 2012 — down 5% from last
year’s first-quarter tally — in
posting its 23rd consecutive
primetime quarterly ratings
win among ad-supported,
entertainment-based networks,
according to a Turner
Research analysis of Nielsen
data. (USA’s quarterly ratings
streak does not take into account
sports network ESPN’s
six consecutive years of football-
fueled fourth-quarter
wins, or ad-free Disney Channel’s third-quarter 2007 win.)

Disney Channel finished second with 2.4 million viewers,
down 8% from 2011, according to Nielsen. History posted
an 18% increase — one of
only three cable networks in
the top 10 to post viewership
gains — to 2.3 million viewers,
while ESPN averaged 2.2
million viewers, down 3% to
finish fourth.

TBS rode strong viewership
from acquired sitcom The Big
Bang Theory
to a whopping
32% quarter-to-quarter increase,
averaging 2.1 million
viewers en route to a fifthplace
finish. The remaining
top 10 included TNT (1.9 million
viewers, down 10%); Fox
News Channel (1.8 million,
down 1%); A&E Network (1.7
million, up 4%); Adult Swim
(1.4 million, down 1%); and FX
(1.4 million, down 16%.)
TBS also bested all basiccable
networks in the advertiser-
coveted 18-49 and 18-34
viewer demographics, posting
33% and 28% gains in the respective
demos, according to

Nickelodeon held off Disney
to win its 68th consecutive
quarter over a 24-hour
basis, although its 1.8 million
viewer average was down 24%
from last year. Disney posted
a 4% audience loss to 1.6 million
viewers, edging out USA’s
1.3 million viewers, which
was down 5% from first-quarter
2011. Adult Swim (1.3 million,
down 5%) and Cartoon
Network (1.1 million, up 14%)
finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Several cable networks
posted record performances and signifi cant viewer increases
during the quarter compared to the same period
last year. Family/inspirational-themed network GMC posted
the biggest primetime audience
gain for cable nets at 52%,
averaging 140,000 viewers, according
to Nielsen. Other networks
with strong first-quarter
numbers include Sprout (up
48% to 186,000 viewers); NFL
Network (45% to 162,000); Nat
Geo Wild (44% to 180,000); NBA
TV (36% to 189,000); IFC (35%
to 162,000); ESPNews (31% to
119,000); VH1 (31% to 669,000);
and Discovery Fit & Health
(29% to 117,000).

Networks struggling during
the quarter in primetime included
Nick at Nite (down 44%
to 893,000 viewers); SoapNet
(down 34% to 184,000); Teen-
Nick (down 27% to 126,000); The
Weather Channel (down 24%,
to 228,000); MTV (down 23%, to
1.1 million); Cloo (down 22%, to
104,000) and Hallmark Movie
Channel (down 22%, to 192,000).

ESPN’s coverage of college
football’s Bowl Championship
Series games were the seven
most-watched shows for the
quarter and took eight of the top
10 slots, according to Nielsen.
Disney’s Jan. 6 Wizards of Waverly
series finale and the
Feb. 12 return episode of AMC’s
The Walking Dead were the only
two entertainment-based shows
to crack the list, Nielsen said.

Overall shares for both adsupported
cable networks and
the big four broadcast networks
(ABC, NBC, CBS and
Fox) were flat in the first quarter
2012 compared to the same
period in 2011.