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Cable’s neat sweep

Claims first primetime win over broadcasters

Chalk another one up for cable: For the first time, the cable universe grabbed a larger share of primetime viewers than did broadcasters during the November sweep.

That’s the news from Turner chief of research Jack Wakshlag, who presented his year-to-date Nielsen analysis to reporters Wednesday.

Early projections, based on data spanning Dec. 29, 2003 to Dec. 5, 2004, show that cable registered a more than 5-share advantage over the broadcasters. Cable notched a total 51.7 share of households (up 3.4) while broadcasters scored a 46.3 (down 2.6).”It’s the end of an era,” Wakshlag said, noting that it would “take an extraordinary event for broadcast to beat cable (during sweeps) ever again.”

That event could be the Super Bowl, which will air on Fox in February, giving broadcasters a collective boost in the next sweeps month.

Cable is also projected to extend its lead over the major nets for the third straight year with a 52.9 household share to broadcast’s 43.

Among cablers, TNT came out on top for the third consecutive year in primetime among adults 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers, averaging 2.4 million overall. Rounding out the top five in that category were USA (up 21%), Nick at Nite (even), ESPN (up 7%) and TBS (up 1%).

In the key 18-49 demographic, eight of the top 10 cablers experienced year-to-year growth. Biggest gainers among the top 10 were Comedy Central (up 24%), FX (21%), Discovery Channel (15%) and USA (14%). Upticks come thanks largely to off-network fare — “Law & Order,” “CSI” and “Sex and the City” — as well as theatricals and a handful of strong original series including “Chappelle’s Show,” “Nip/Tuck,” “American Chopper,” “The 4400” and “Monk.”

Suffering some losses in primetime were Lifetime (down 5% in 18-49) and TLC (down 25% in 25-54). MTV maintained its lock on adults 18-34 (498,000), narrowly edging TNT (488,000), though its ratings are essentially flat for the year.

Once again, Nickelodeon took the total-day crown in total viewers, with Nick at Nite tying up 18-34. TNT won the day in 18-49 and 25-54.

The “2004 Video Music Awards” was the top-rated nonsports entertainment program of the year (10.3 million viewers).

Among kids nets, Nickelodeon held onto the No. 1 spot in total-day ratings in kids 2-11 and 6-11, with growth in both categories. Cartoon Network followed, with strong boys 6-11 numbers (up 6%). Disney came up third in the kids demos, experiencing some declines in 6-11 (down 5%) but placing second in girls 6-11 (down 8%). Disney remains tops among girls 2-11 as well as tweens 9-14.

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