TNT blasts past weblets

Oater 'Closer' lifts cable net to historic June

NEW YORK — More people watched TNT during June than either UPN or the WB, marking the first time that a cable network beat two broadcast networks, albeit weblets, in total primetime viewers and adults 18-49 for an entire month.

Steve Koonin, executive VP of TNT and its TBS sibling, said TNT’s performance is “remarkable” because of a considerable disadvantage: TNT reaches only 89.8 million households, compared to the nearly 100 million homes that receive the two youngest broadcast nets.

The programming that drove TNT to its record Nielsens for both the month and the entire second quarter included a number of NBA Playoff games, the first six hours of the 12-hour epic “Into the West,” the first two episodes of the Kyra Sedgwick police drama “The Closer,” theatrical movies like “Gladiator” and multiple reruns of “Law & Order.”

Addressing the bigger picture, Tim Brooks, head of research for Lifetime TV, said cable networks as a category also scored a historic first, chalking up a 60% share of audience during June and sending the broadcast networks to below a 40 share.

Brooks also said only two of the top 10-rated ad-supported cable networks showed a decline in total primetime viewers during the second quarter: ESPN, which fell by 18%, and TBS, which slipped by 3%.

The big winner among the top 10 networks quarter to quarter in primetime was Spike, which soared by 66%. The engine of Spike’s powerhouse second quarter was the two-hour Monday night “Raw,” produced by World Wrestling Entertainment. Unfortunately, Spike couldn’t come to an agreement to renew the WWE contract, so wrestling will shift to the USA Network in the fall.

Other individual cable programs that drew sizable auds during the second quarter include three Nextel Cup NASCAR races on FX, the return of USA’s “The 4400” as a regular series, Nickelodeon’s “Kids Choice Awards,” the three-hour docu blockbuster “Supervolcano” on Discovery Channel, the Lifetime original movie “Odd Girl Out,” TBS’ cablecast of “Spider-Man” and the “2005 MTV Movie Awards.”

Nickelodeon exercised its bragging rights outside primetime, wrapping its 10th consecutive year as the No. 1-rated cable network in total day.

In primetime, double-digit gainers for the second quarter, in addition to Spike, were (in order of their overall finish): AMC (up 16%), TV Land (up 17%), Hallmark Channel (up 18%), Lifetime Movie Network (up 17%), CNN Headline News (up 63%) and TV Guide Channel (up 15%).

Also: Discovery Health (up 44%), National Geographic Channel (up 60%), Speed Channel (up 11%), Toon Disney (up 11%), WE: Women’s Entertainment (up 13%), the regional Turner South (up 129%), Outdoor Life Network (up 39%), Noggin (up 43%) and Biography Channel (up 175%).

The networks falling off by double digits in the second quarter in primetime, in addition to ESPN, were: MTV (down 12%), Discovery (down 15%), CNN (down 13%), TLC (down 30%), Bravo (down 18%), WGN (down 14%), CNBC (down 25%) and Fuse (down 35%).

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