Playoff hoops net big ratings for TNT
NBA playoff games featuring Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and their athletic colleagues propelled TNT to one of the best Nielsen months in its history.
TNT averaged more than 3 million total viewers in primetime for May, led by the month’s highest-rated program, the Dallas-San Antonio game of May 22, which harvested more than 7 million viewers. Six other NBA playoff games on TNT and ESPN finished among the 10 top-rated programs for the month.
TNT ended up a dominant No. 1 in total primetime viewers for May, also finishing first in primetime in the three key adult categories (18-34, 18-49 and 25-54).
Looking at the bigger picture, Tim Brooks, exec VP of research for Lifetime TV, said the audience share for ad-supported cable shot up by 5% during the month of May, to a record 53.8, while the seven broadcast networks dropped off by 5%, to a record low share of 46.1.
That May decline for the broadcasters was actually a departure from the first four months of the year, Brooks said, when their share held fairly steady. For the year through May 28, the broadcast nets lost less than 2% of their share (45.0 compared with 45.7 for the same period in 2005).
Returning to individual nets, USA was a distant second to TNT in total viewers and in all of the young-adult demos, but USA was up by double digits across the board, a tribute to “WWE Raw,” the two-hour wrestling extravaganza that chalks up an average of 5 million viewers every Monday night. (“WWE Raw” ran on Spike TV in May 2005; the disappearance of wrestling contributed mightily to Spike’s 22% plunge in total viewers last month.)
ESPN wound up in third place in primetime across the board, but it delivered the kind of increases that are rare for a network as widely carried as ESPN. It climbed 56% in total viewers, 50% in adults 18-49, 53% in 18-34 and 52% in 25-54.
In addition to USA and ESPN, double-digit gainers for May in primetime total viewers, in order of their ranking, are TNT (up 10%), FX (15%), Hallmark Channel (57%), HGTV (12%), TLC (22%) and CNN (up 13%).
Also: ESPN2 (up 47%), Bravo (27%), OLN (117%), MSNBC (13%), Soap Net (33%), CMT (13%) and National Geographic Channel (27%).
Additionally: Toon Disney (up 14%), Oxygen (23%), WE: Women’s Entertainment (14%), CNBC (16%), ESPN Classic (58%), Nicktoons (23%), Biography (59%) and ESPN News (44%).
On the dark side, the following networks slipped by double digits in primetime, also in order of their ranking: Nick at Nite (down 23%), Lifetime (10%); Spike TV (22%), Sci Fi Channel (17%), A&E (12%) and AMC (18%).
Also: CNN Headline News (down 13%), the Weather Channel (11%), GSN (13%), Discovery Health (19%); and Style (15%).