USA Wins January Ratings Race


New York -- A handful of cable networks gained substantial
ground in January versus a year ago, as USA Network turned in a strong primetime
performance to win the basic-cable-ratings derby.

Even though it only had one show among the top 25, USA
posted a 2.5 rating, up 25 percent from its 2.0 rating a year ago, according to Turner
Entertainment Research from Nielsen Media Research data.

Turner Network Television remained flat at 2.2 to finish
second in primetime. Tied for third at 2.0 were TBS Superstation (up from 1.9) and
Nickelodeon (flat from January 1997).

But some of the biggest primetime gainers from last year
were further down the list:

• Lifetime Television surged 19 percent, from 1.5 to
1.9, for its highest month ever, largely on the strength of original film Fifteen and
and acquired films A Mother's Instinct and DanielleSteele's
Family Album (Part 2)

• The Family Channel, which will change formats as
soon as it becomes Fox Family Channel, leaped 36 percent, from 1.1 to 1.5. Its film, Moonlight
Becomes You
, earned a strong 4.2 rating Jan. 11.

• The Learning Channel improved 25 percent, from 0.8
to 1.0.

• FX, fueled by NYPD Blue and The X-Files
reruns, rose 43 percent, from 0.7 to 1.0.

• Comedy Central rode the South Park craze to a
record 0.7 rating, up from 0.5 percent a year ago.

• VH1 picked up by 33 percent, from 0.3 to 0.4

• The Travel Channel also gained a bit, doubling its
anemic 0.1 rating to 0.2.

The top program for the month was Fifteen and Pregnant,
which earned a 5.2 rating Jan. 19. TNT's Monday Night Nitro wrestling show
captured slots two through five, while MTV: Music Television's Death Bowl 98
tied for fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 were TNT's wrestling; Two
for Texas
, an original movie on TNT; and Nickelodeon's Rugrats. Of the top
53 shows for the month, 34 were either wrestling-related or Rugrats, which made the
list 16 times.

The only network to lose any significant ground was The
Nashville Network, which fell from a 1.1 to a 0.9 rating. But TNN remained flat, at 0.5,
for total day.

Nick, as usual, won the 24-hour race, where it was flat at
1.7. TBS was second at 1.2 (compared with 1.3 in 1997), followed by TNT at 1.1 (flat), USA
at 1.1 (1.0) and Lifetime at 1.0 (0.9).

Cartoon fell by 25 percent in total day, from 1.2 to 0.9.
ESPN slipped by 22 percent, from 0.9 to 0.7.