Nick’s kids race win is cable first

Saturday belongs to 'Rugrats'

NEW YORK — For the first time, a cable network, Nickelodeon, will win the Saturday morning kids ratings race for the broadcast season.

With the 1997-98 broadcast season almost over, Nickelodeon has averaged a 4.1/18 in kids 2-11 on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., compared to a 3.5/16 for Fox, a 3.4/16 for ABC , a 2.1/9 for the WB and 0.5/2 for CBS, from Sept. 22, 1997-May 10, 1998, according to Nielsen Media Research. (NBC targets teens, not kids 2-11, on Saturday mornings.)

ABC executives admit Nickelodeon is beating them in viewership, but the Alphabet network begins its kids TV season on Sept. 13 so — according to ABC’s bookkeeping — it is ahead of Fox this season 3.6/16 to 3.5/16. Since Fox won the Saturday kids ratings race eight years in a row prior to this season, ABC has been touting its first place among the broadcast nets.

Nonetheless, Nick has a roughly 15% lead over the closest broadcast competitor this season, and the cable network is winning with rerun programming. Because the Saturday morning time period is so competitive for kids, Nick has used other dayparts — such as Sunday morning and primetime — to program its premiere original programming.

Nick’s competitors, ABC, Fox, the WB and CBS, all schedule firstrun kids programs on Saturday morning.

The competitors point out that Nick ran a “Rugrats” marathon stunt on one Saturday, which achieved a much higher than average rating. A Nick representative said, however, that the marathon barely impacted the year-to-date figures, and the Viacom-owned kids channel would still lead Saturday morning if the marathon was not counted in the ratings.

Nickelodeon’s ratings are also impressive because the network is available in significantly fewer homes than its broadcast competitors. Nick can be seen in 72.5 million homes nationally.

Nick is the only cable network that issues its ratings for the national TV universe. All the other cable nets use coverage area figures that frame a cable network’s rating within the number of households that receive the channel.