Cablers tap young auds

17 nets up by double digits in 18 to 49

Young viewers continue to gravitate to cable: In the 2005-06 primetime season to date, 17 cable networks have shot up by double digits among those 18 to 49, compared with only four that dropped off by 10% or more.

The biggest winner is the seven-year-old A&E spinoff Biography Channel, which climbed 53% in 18-49, which should rev up the network’s drive to push its subscriber count above a modest 36.8 million. (Bio’s parent A&E reaches 90-million homes.)

Comcast’s OLN (Outdoor Life Network) was also breaking out the party hats on the strength of a second-place 41% jump season to date, a testament, in part, to the young-male appeal of National Hockey League games, which kicked off for the first time this season on OLN.

On the downside, Viacom’s Spike TV sustained the biggest Nielsen losses; it fell by 17% in the 18-49 demo, dragged down by the departure last fall of the high-rated World Wrestling Entertainment’s two-hour “Raw” cablecast to the USA Network. (The comparisons, put together by Turner Research from Nielsen data, are between the following dates: Sept. 19, 2005, to May 14, 2006, vs. Sept. 20, 2004, to May 15, 2005.)

The rest of the 18-49 winners, in order, are National Geographic Channel (up 26%), Style Network (up 26%), WE: Women’s Entertainment (up 24%), BET (up 19%), Hallmark Channel (up 18%), E! Entertainment TV (up 18%), Speed Channel (up 18%), Oxygen (up 18%), USA Network (up 17%), FX (up 16%), HGTV (up 13%), VH1 (up 13%), MTV2 (up 13%), CMT (Country Music TV) (up 11%) and TV Land (up 10%).

USA’s primetime gains were across the board, thanks, in part, to WWE “Raw.” USA came in first among all cable networks in total viewers and first in the three key demos: 18-49, 25-54 and 18-49.

The three other underachievers are: Lifetime (down 15%), Sci Fi Channel (down 11%) and Soap Net (down 10%).

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