May in TNT’s basket, but hoops on decline

Spike ratings up 80% in total viewership

NEW YORK — TNT parlayed a batch of NBA playoff games into a dominant No. 1 in primetime among all ad-supported cable networks during the month of May in total viewers and in the key young-adult categories.

At the same time, TNT’s ratings dropped by 14% from May 2004 in total viewers and adults 18-49, 18% in adults 25-54 and 11% in adults 18-34.

The falloff was easily explainable: In May 2004, the nine highest-rated programs for the month on basic cable were NBA playoff games on TNT, eight of them featuring the Los Angeles Lakers (led then by Shaquille O’Neal). Last month, only three of the top 10 shows were NBA games on TNT, all three featuring the Eastern Conference Finals matchup between Miami (O’Neal’s new team) and Detroit.

Despite solid ratings for most of the games on ESPN, the NBA Playoffs also failed to help that network’s ratings, which plunged even more dramatically than TNT’s year on year. ESPN skidded by 25% in total viewers, 30% in adults 25-54, 28% in 18-49 and 27% in 18-34.

The biggest gainer among the top 30 nets was Spike, which shot up 80% among total viewers thanks to Monday wrestling series “Raw.” (Unfortunately for Spike, Vince McMahon is moving the WWE’s cablecasts to USA in the fall.)

USA finished second behind TNT among total viewers in primetime for May, up 8% from a year ago. Nick at Nite was third (up 6%), Cartoon Network fourth (up 1%) and Spike fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 in total primetime viewers for May, in order, were Lifetime (up 8%), TBS (up 14%), Fox News (up 11%), FX (up 13%) and ESPN (down 25%).

Networks below the top 10 that displayed double-digit growth in total primetime viewers in May were, in order, AMC (13th place, up 15%), TV Land (20th place, up 22%), Lifetime Movie Network (29th place, up 12%), CNN Headline News (34th place, up 82%) and TV Guide Channel (38th place, up 21%);

Also, Discovery Health (40th place, up 50%), Soap Net (42nd place, up 20%), National Geographic Channel (43rd place, up 62%), Speed Channel (44th place, up 13%), WE: Women’s Entertainment (47th place, up 14%), Outdoor Life Network (48th place, up 78%), Noggin (50th place, up 53%), Turner South (51st, up 341%), and Biography Channel (56th place, up 188%).

Nets plummeting by double digits in total primetime viewers in May were Discovery Channel (14th place, down 15%), MTV (16th place, down 16%), TLC (24th place, down 27%), CNN (25th place, down 16%), ESPN2 (33rd place, down 47%), WGN Superstation (35th place, down 12%), GSN (37th place, down 10%) and Fuse (59th place, down 17%).

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