Cable nets lead auds to turn on and tune in

NEW YORK — The cable industry is crowing about Nielsen primetime numbers for the second quarter, showing that cable networks as a category not only are continuing to draw viewers away from the broadcast networks but are causing more people to turn on their TV sets.

That’s the conclusion reached by Jonathan Sims, VP of research for the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, the trade association of cable networks and operators. For the period of March 31 to June 29, the category of homes using television climbed from 55.4 million households during second-quarter 1996 to this year’s 56.2 million, an unusually robust gain of 750,000 homes.

Basic-cable networks chalked up an even bigger gain for the period, jumping by 2.3 million homes (from 16.9 million in 1996’s second quarter to 19.2 million for 1997’s). These numbers represent a record quarterly gain for basic cable.

For the same period, the Big Four broadcast networks were losing 930,000 households (from 32 million last year to 31.07 million in 1997).

Sims says the cable networks plan to use these data as part of a stepped-up strategy to harvest more dollars from the ad agencies.

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