NEW YORK — Most of the top 10 basic-cable networks continue to be plagued by disappearing viewers in primetime.
That trend continued with the third-quarter Nielsens, which showed that seven of the 10 highest-rated nets fell off in their number of households reached vs. a year ago; an eighth network, Nickelodeon, was flat.
The two that gained audience were Lifetime, which finished first overall in primetime with a 2.1 rating, up 17% from the same period a year ago, and CNN, which tied for eighth and was up by 100%, propelled by its blanket coverage of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
“The larger, less-defined networks such as TBS, USA and TNT continue to have problems,” said Tim Brooks, senior VP of research for Lifetime. By contrast, he said, Lifetime and CNN are examples of networks that aim their programming toward specific niche audiences, which tune in consistently.
But the general-entertainment nets point to their strength with the two most heavily sold demographics, adults 18-49 and 25-54. In the 18-49 category for third-quarter primetime, it’s a three-way tie among TBS, USA and Lifetime, each with a 0.9 rating. TNT was in fourth, with a 0.8. But TNT was down year to year by 20%, USA and TBS by 10%.
Lifetime demo gains
In adults 25-54, the picture for third-quarter primetime was similar. The four leaders wound up in a virtual dead heat, but only Lifetime showed gains year to year.
In the overall household Nielsens — where Lifetime was dominant — TBS and USA tied for second place with Nickelodeon, each pulling in a 1.7 primetime rating.
Below the top 10, among households in primetime, 11 networks displayed double-digit gains quarter to quarter. They are, in order of overall ranking, Fox News Channel (up 120%), TNN (43%), History Channel (13%), MSNBC (75%), BET (20%) and CNBC (25%).
Also, Food Network (up 25%), Game Show Channel (25%), Hallmark Channel (67%), Travel Channel (33%) and CNN Headline News (50%).
Only three nets below the top 10 fell off by double-digit percentages year to year in third-quarter primetime Nielsens: the Learning Channel (down by 11%), the Sci Fi Channel (also 11%) and VH1 (off 20%).