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%).