Fox News doubles lead

Net shows strong perf in primetime, 25-54 demo

Fox News Channel once again made ratings history last month, nearly doubling its lead over rival CNN.

On the entertainment side of the cable universe, NBA basketball was on such a roll during the May sweeps that the six highest-rated individual programs for the month consisted of Western Conference playoff games in primetime on TNT.

Propelled by the Nielsen performance of the NBA contests, TNT dominated its cable-network competitors in primetime.

Another clear champion was Fox News, whose performance further confirmed the net’s meteoric rise, as well as highlighting CNN’s unsuccessful struggle to regain its market-hold and breach the gap.

According to Nielsen Media Research, Fox News averaged 1.617 million primetime viewers in May, while CNN averaged 814,000.

Fox News also was a smash hit among the key 25-54 demo, averaging 558,000 viewers in primetime — more than double the figure posted by CNN, which averaged 261,000 viewers aged 25-54.

The third 24/7 cabler, MSNBC remained a distant third, averaging 212 million viewers overall, and 88,000 viewers in the 25-54 demo.

While falling further behind Fox News, CNN did enjoy gains vs. the same time period last year, and was up 24% in the 25-54 demo.

TNT dominated its cable-network competitors in primetime, ending up No. 1 in total viewers (2.97 million) and in the three key demographic categories: adults 18 to 34, 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, all by a wide margin. And, compared with the numbers for May 2002, TNT was up in all of the demos by an average of 35%.

Although none of the NBA games it covered in May showed up among the top-30 rated individual shows, ESPN also got a substantial lift from its first year of NBA coverage in decades. ESPN jumped by double digits in total viewers (1.37 million) and in the three demos.

USA (1.746 million viewers) came in second to TNT in adults 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, and third (behind TNT and MTV) in adults 18 to 34. USA’s biggest single boost came from two runs of “Liar Liar,” with Jim Carrey.

The best performing networks that finished between 10th and 20th place overall for the month were TLC (1.08 million viewers), whose consistent hit series are “Trading Spaces” and “What Not to Wear”; Sci Fi Channel (924,000), with original episodes of “Stargate: SG-1” leading the way; History Channel (895.000); and AMC (826,000). All four climbed by double digits in viewers compared with May 2002.

More cable networks among the top 20 lost viewers in May than gained them. Falling off by double digits were Nickelodeon/Nick at Night (second place over all, but down by 10%), Lifetime (sixth, down 26%), TBS (seventh, down 23%), FX (10th, down 10%) and Discovery (13th, down 15%).