Disney Descendants
Courtesy of Disney Channel

Thanks to strong original movies like “Descendants” and “Teen Beach 2” and good series launches for “BUNK’D” and “K.C. Undercover,” Disney Channel has finished 2015 as the most-watched cable network on a total-day basis for the first time. It eked ahead of Nickelodeon, ending the Viacom network’s 20-year finish at No. 1 in the total-viewer category.

Nielsen estimates that Disney Channel averaged 1.234 million viewers during any average minute during the calendar year spanning Dec. 29, 2014 to Dec. 27, 2015, beating out Nickelodeon (1.231 million) by about 30,000 viewers. Nickelodeon held the advantage in the key kids 2-11 demo (642,000 vs. 607,000), but Disney Channel fared better in other kids categories like 6-11 (423,000 vs. 328,000, its second largest margin ever) and 9-14 (406,000 vs. 212,000, winning by a record margin).

In primetime, Disney Channel was a top-5 cable TV network for the 13th year in a row in total viewers (1.7 million, ranking fifth). It also led all cable networks for an 11th straight year in kids 2-11 (871,000), a 13th straight in kids 6-11 (691,000) and a 15th consecutive in tweens 9-14 (627,000), though it was down double-digits in most categories.

For Disney Channel, “Descendants” in July became the year’s No. 1 cable TV telecast across major kids demos including 2-11 (6.2 million), 6-11 (4.9 million) and tweens 9-14 (4.4 million) as well as the No. 1 cable TV movie in total viewers (12.2 million), according to final “live plus-7” estimates. “Descendants” is the No. 5 original movie in cable TV history in total viewers, giving the network six of the seven most-watched original cable movies ever.

The June premiere of “Teen Beach 2” was the No. 2 cable TV telecast of the year in kids 2-11 (4.1 million), kids 6-11 (3.4 million) and tweens 9-14 (3.0 million). And in November, Disney Channel scored with “The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar” — the No. 1 primetime cable TV telecast of 2015 in kids 2-5 (1.7 million) and the No. 1 animated telecast across kid cable-TV networks among total viewers (6.1 million), adults 18-49 (2.1 million) and kids 2-11 (3.0 million).

The 24-hour Disney Junior Channel, meanwhile, finished as the No. 1 preschool-dedicated TV network in total day for the third year in a row in total viewers (533,000), across target kids 2-5 (241,000), girls 2-5 (128,000) and women 18-49 (106,000). In these categories, it beat Nick Jr. and Sprout by all-time high margins.

In other year-end cable ratings news, OWN delivered its most-watched year ever in 2015 with an average primetime audience of 487,000. It finished up by double-digits for a fourth straight year, also rising 10% in its target women 25-54 demo as it ranked 25th among all cable networks (up from 29th a year ago). Tuesday drama “The Haves and the Have Nots” and “If Loving You is Wrong,” both from Tyler Perry, ranked among the top seven original scripted series on ad-supported cable in women 25-54.

ABC Family finished as the No. 1 cable network in primetime for the second straight year in women 18-34 (216,000 viewers), and its “Pretty Little Liars” ranked among cable’s top five scripted cable series or the year in this demo (1.2 million) as well as women 18-49 (1.5 million) and females 12-34 (1.7 million). Also, with roughly 62 million fans across Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter, ABC Family ranked as the No. 1 most-socially engaged net, according to Social Guide and Nielsen.

The most impressive performances among the cable entertainment networks in 2015 were AMC, Discovery and Cartoon Network. On the news front, Fox News Channel remained dominant, but CNN closed the gap some and finished ahead of MSNBC across the board in key demos.

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