NEW YORK — Nine of the top 20 rated cable networks are high-fiving each other because they shot up by double digits among total viewers in primetime last month.
By contrast, only one network among the top 20 fell off by double digits, the Discovery Channel, which plunged by 27% compared to February 2004.
The dominant single cable program for the month was TNT’s 2005 NBA All-Star Game, which harvested more than 8 million viewers Feb. 20. Other shows that drew big audiences for the month include Fox News’ coverage of the State of the Union address Feb. 2, ESPN’s Feb. 13 carriage of the AFC/NFC Pro Bowl game, Comedy Central’s Feb. 13 “Blue Collar Comedy Tour 2,” all four original episodes of USA’s weekly series “Monk,” and Spike TV’s consistently popular Monday-night two-hour editions of World Wrestling Entertainment.
The NBA All-Star Game and primetime runs of “Law & Order” reruns helped to drive TNT to No. 1 among all ad-supported cable networks for February, an average of 2.56 million total viewers in primetime, up by a slight increase of 1% from February ’04. To shift to a hockey metaphor, TNT also pulled the hat trick by coming in No. 1 for February among the three key demos: viewers 18 to 49, 18 to 34 and 25 to 54.
Cartoon Network, which finished fourth for the month overall, was the highest-rated of the nine networks to go up by double digits in primetime, rising by 20%, thanks to multiple episodes of “Futurama” and “Family Guy.”
Seventh-place Fox News climbed by 18% in primetime, while eighth-place Spike TV ballooned by 45% February to February. Reruns of “CSI” join wrestling as Spike’s biggest audience-grabbers.
ESPN, in ninth place, grew by 18%, and 10th-place Sci Fi Channel, which schedules of two original-series hits on Friday nights, “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate Atlantis,” popped up by 11% overall.
Redneck humor in the form of the “Blue Collar Comedy” performance tours lifted Comedy Central into 12th place in primetime, 35% higher than its February ’04 totals.
Rounding out the top-20 cable networks that can boast of double-digit growth are FX (14th place, up 18%), TV Land (18th place, up 21%) and Court TV (20th place, up 11%).
Other double-digit gainers, in order of their overall ranking, are Hallmark Channel (21st place, up 31%), Food Network (24th place, up 16%), VH1 (27th place, up 27%), Bravo (30th place, up 22%), Country Music TV (33rd place, up 18%) and Speed Channel (39th place, up 32%).
Also, National Geographic Channel (42nd place, up 83%), Oxygen (44th place, up 25%), Discovery Health (46th place, up 27%), Outdoor Life Network (47th, up 16%), Noggin (50th, up 160%) and Turner South (52nd, up 77%).
After 15th-place Discovery Channel, the following cable networks dropped by double digits, in order of their overall finish in February: Home & Garden TV (22nd spot, down 14%), TLC (23rd place, down 36%), CNN (25th, down 21%), Animal Planet (26th, down 16%), E! Entertainment TV (35th spot, down 16%) and the Weather Channel (36th, down 22%).
Also, Game Show Network (37th place, down 33%), MSNBC (38th rank, down 14%), WE: Women’s Entertainment (48th spot, down 18%), CNBC (51st, down 42%) and BBC America (58th place, down 21%).