An update was made to this article on Mar. 29, 2006.

Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Paul Lee
Programming topper: Kate Juergens
Top originals: Wildfire, Beautiful People
Upcoming originals: Kyle XY (series), Three Moons Over Milford (series), Balancing Act (series)
The skinny: After years of changing ownership and identity, ABC Family finally seems to be finding a bit of a groove under Lee. Once a net filled with repeats of other people’s shows, Lee has turned it into one of cable’s most prolific producers of original programming, with five skeins already greenlit. The strategy’s working: Second season premiere of “Wildfire” drew 2.3 million viewers, making it the net’s biggest premiere aud yet.

Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Mike Lazzo
Programming topper: Keith Crofford
Top original shows: Boondocks, Robot Chicken, Minoriteam
Upcoming originals: Dethklok (series)
The skinny: Most people don’t realize that when Adult Swim became a separately rated network, it also instantly became the No. 1 network among men 18-34. While wannabes MTV2 and G4 try to invade the cabler’s latenight space with similar programming, Adult Swim thrives on both the old (“Aqua Team Hunger Force” and “Space Ghost”) and the new (“Boondocks”) subversive programming that its audiences have come to expect from the network.

Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Bob DeBitetto
Programming toppers: Nancy Dubuc, Tana Nugent Jamieson
Top original shows: Dog the Bounty Hunter, Inkd, Criss Angel: Mindfreak
Upcoming originals: Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels (series), Driving Force (series)
The skinny: Things just keep rolling at A&E, which wrapped last year up 12% among adults 18-49. While its reality game is firmly established, A&E keeps fanning the flames with new hits such as “Dallas SWAT” and “Criss Angel.” Meanwhile, execs are readying for a re-entry into drama. They’ve hired WB exec Tana Nugent Jamieson to mine a companion to “The Sopranos,” which makes its off-network debut in 2007.

Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Ed Carroll
Programming topper: Robert Sorcher
Top originals: Sunday Morning Shootout, Hustle
Upcoming originals: Broken Trail (miniseries)
The skinny: Once a classic movie channel, AMC’s transition to general movie network was bemoaned by film noir buffs but embraced by a popcorn-movie-hungry viewership that propelled AMC to its best year in 2005. Now positioning itself as the premiere basic cable destination for movie lovers, AMC has enjoyed success with its original programming. Film insider series “Sunday Morning Shootout” is about to hit 100 episodes, and NYU professor Richard Brown has gotten reclusive actors (including Daniel Day-Lewis) to talk about their craft on “Movies 101.” Offbeat series “Celebrity Charades,” from exec producer Hilary Swank, proved to be a winner.

Subscribers: 88.2 million
Network topper: Maureen Smith
Programming topper: David Doyle
Top originals: The Little Zoo That Could, Animal Planet Heroes: Phoenix, Get Out There!
Upcoming originals: Meerkat Manor (series), Gorillas Revisited With Sigourney Weaver (special), Caught in the Moment (series), Jane Goodall’s Heroes (special)
The skinny: Cabler fell 3% last year vs. 2004 in total viewers, a number Smith will have to overcome in her sophomore year at the helm. Coming from family-friendly Fox, her programming choices “Gorillas Revisited” and “Jane Goodall’s Heroes” should attract a larger female fan base, while “Get Out There!” and “Caught in the Moment” could bring a younger aud. “Meerkat Manor” and the return of venerable “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” may also boost numbers in 2006.

Subscribers: 80 million
Network topper: Debra Lee
Programming topper: Reginald Hudlin
Top originals: Little Kim: Countdown to Lockdown, College Hill
Upcoming originals: Season of the Tiger (series), Meet the Faith (talkshow)
The skinny: BET was the No. 1 network among African-Americans in 2005 and is consistently among the top 20 primetime networks in adults 18-34. Filmmaker Reginald Hudlin, tapped entertainment prexy last summer, created a stir with the announcement of “Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown,” a reality show focusing on the imprisonment of the rap star that set network records with its March bow. Also on tap for 2006 are “Season of the Tiger,” a look at the football players and marching band of Grambling U, as well as Sunday ayem yakker “Meet the Faith.”

Subscribers: 80 million
Network topper: Lauren Zalaznick
Programming topper: Frances Berwick
Top originals: Project Runway, Queer Eye, Blow Out
Upcoming originals: Tabloid Wars (series), Million Dollar Listing (series)
The skinny: The bad news for Bravo is that the once-mighty “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” has lost much of its ratings and buzz clout. The good news? Last year’s “Being Bobby Brown” got plenty of attention, while fashion-focused reality skein “Project Runway” is a Nielsen monster and a pop culture phenom after just two seasons. Newcomer “Top Chef” got off to a promising start.

Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Jim Samples
Programming topper: Bob Higgins
Top originals: Ben 10, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
Upcoming originals: Squirrel Boy (series), Class of 3000 (series), Re-Animated (movie)
The skinny: Cartoon Network, already tops in primetime kids’ rankings for ad-supported cable, is getting into the live-action business. Sort of. It seems way off-brand for a toon web, but execs will test the waters with “Re-Animated,” the cabler’s first original movie that is a live-action/animated hybrid, and try out some theatricals such as “Spider-Man” and “Roger Rabbit.” Meanwhile, the toons keep pouring in. Cartoon will premiere 12 this year alone, including Marvel’s “Fantastic Four.”

Subscribers: 80.9 million
Network toppers: Brian Graden, Brian Philips
Programming topper: Paul Villadolid
Top originals: CMT Music Awards, Crossroads, Trick My Truck, Top 20 Countdown
Upcoming originals: CMT Greatest Moments (series), The Ultimate Coyote Ugly Search (series), Unsung Stories (series)
The skinny: In January, CMT aired the Miss America Pageant, recently jettisoned by ABC. Pageant had languished on the network, but it was a hit for the cabler in its heartland demo. CMT viewership rose modestly overall in 2005, but with a big jump of 22% in the 18-34 category. Cabler will try to lure more younger viewers with the reality series “The Ultimate Coyote Ugly Search,” which preems in April.

Subscribers: 86 million
Network topper: Mark Hoffman
Programming topper: David Friend
Top originals: Squawk Box, Morning Call, Mad Money
The skinny: As a financial news network mostly watched in the workplace, CNBC has never measured itself by the Nielsen numbers. That’s a good thing, because outside its morning markets-oriented programming, CNBC regularly airs shows that don’t even register in the ratings. There’s one big exception: Jim Cramer’s “Mad Money,” a show that has allowed CNBC to mesh its reason for being with a reason
to watch the net after the financial markets close. Under the management of Mark Hoffman, CNBC has rejiggered its programming and its graphical look. There’s a sense of urgency. Fox has made no secret of its desire to launch its own business channel. Fox topper Roger Ailes helped launch CNBC, and Fox News has in Neil Cavuto the highest-rated business-news host on cable.

Subscribers: 90 million
Network topper: Jim Walton
Programming topper: Jonathan Klein
Top originals: Larry King Live, Anderson Cooper 360, The Situation Room
The skinny: CNN is in the second year of a rebuilding phase led by CNN/U.S. president and former CBS producer Jonathan Klein. His task? Create primetime hits that power growth and mount a challenge to Fox. The trouble is Fox has no weakness in primetime and CNN’s longtime standby, “Larry King Live,” is in decline. So far, his big move was to jettison a former network “face,” Aaron Brown, and pour the bulk of the net’s promotional energy into Katrina breakout Anderson Cooper, who helms a two-hour block starting at 10 p.m. Klein also relaunched “American Morning” with Soledad O’Brien and Miles O’Brien and created a three-hour midday block, “The Situation Room,” anchored by Wolf Blitzer.

Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Jim Walton
Programming topper: Ken Jautz
Top originals: Nancy Grace, Robin & Co., Glenn Beck
The skinny: If CNN has a success story over the past year, it’s Headline News. CNN’s sister net spent most of its existence as the video equivalent of a wire service when last year it was relaunched as an attitudinal counterpoint to CNN with a primetime slate that included opinionated hosts such as Nancy Grace and the upcoming show helmed by conservative talker Glenn Beck. The changes took the ratings to new heights, and within a hair of MSNBC, but there were some miscues. “Showbiz Tonight” fizzled after a painful attempt to hop on the celebrity news bandwagon, and while Grace became the net’s breakout star, she provides some unwanted competition for CNN’s Paula Zahn.

Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Doug Herzog
Programming topper: Lauren Corrao
Top originals: South Park, The Daily Show, Chappelle’s Show, The Colbert Report
Upcoming originals: American Lives (series), Freak Show (series), Legends (special), The Sarah Silverman Programme (series)
The skinny: With a mix of original series, standup and sketch, Comedy Central ranks among the top 10 cablers for the 18-34 crowd as it approaches its 15th anniversary. “The Colbert Report” has proved compatible with “The Daily Show,” and “Chappelle’s Show” remains popular despite a dearth of fresh product. Cabler is also looking to the future, developing its first original multiplatform standup series, “Live at Gotham,” which bowed on broadband channel MotherLoad before its on-air debut. Its first original animated series exclusively for mobile phone subscribers, “Samurai Love God,” premieres in April. One pilot in production is a half-hour exec produced and written by Christopher Titus.

Subscribers: 85 million
Network toppers: Henry Schleiff, Art Bell
Programming topper: Marc Juris
Top shows: Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice, Forensic Files, Psychic Detectives
Upcoming originals: Video Justice (series), Stories of the Innocence Project: Unforgettable Face (special), Unknown White Male (movie)
The skinny: The network that allows America to be a fly on the courtroom wall maintains a solid, loyal following for its daypart trial coverage, anchored by the temperamental yin and yang of Catherine Crier and Nancy Grace, whose signature shows flexed their legal muscle in 2005, posting solid gains in viewers. But the network’s “Seriously Entertaining” evening block of crime-related factual programming and “NYPD Blue” reruns has not benefited from its lead-in, and overall numbers remain flat. Cabler is still looking for a breakout hit to aid and abet a much-needed infusion of viewers.

Subscribers: 90.7 million
Network topper: Jane Root
Programming topper: Abby Greensfelder
Top originals: American Chopper, Dirty Jobs, I Shouldn’t Be Alive, Mythbusters
Upcoming originals: Ultimate Survival (series), Global Warming With Tom Brokaw (special)
The skinny: Discovery hit a Nielsen wall in 2005, falling dramatically out of the top 10-rated cable networks in primetime as it plunged to 17th among total viewers. The drop of 14% was a steeper falloff than any other top-20 network. The only program that made it into the top 50 for 2005 was “The Flight That Fought Back,” a harrowing documentary about the 9/11 airplane that didn’t reach its target because the passengers charged the cockpit. Discovery will try to get back on track with a mix of successful series such as “Monster Garage,” “Chopper,” “Dirty Jobs” and “Mythbusters” and quarterly specials like “Atlas,” a cultural-political anatomy of specific countries or continents.

Subscribers: 87.4 million
Network topper: Rich Ross
Programming topper: Gary Marsh
Top originals: The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, That’s So Raven, Little Einsteins
Upcoming originals: Hannah Montana (series), Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (series), The Cheetah Girls 2 (movie)
The skinny: While “Zack & Cody” continue to perform well, net has a lot riding on “Hannah,” starring Miley Cyrus. Actress is the daughter of country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, who co-stars in the series, and Burbank execs are hoping she can be the next big thing in the vein of Hilary Duff or Raven Symone. Ratings for recently aired original pic “High School Musical” were boffo, setting records for the cabler with more than 7.7 million viewers, while overall weekly averages have remained stellar.

Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Ted Harbert
Programming topper: Lisa Berger
Top originals: Live From the Red Carpet, Girls Next Door, Dr. 90210
Upcoming originals: The Simple Life 4 (series), The Chelsea Handler Show (series), Child Star Confidential (series)
The skinny: E! is banking on Ryan Seacrest — and paying him $7 million a year — to boost its primetime ratings, which average only about 400,000 total viewers and have shown no sign of rising for two years. The cabler has built a studio and made him anchor of the daily “E! News” show, as well as lead traffic cop on the network’s live red-carpet specials. The hope is that Seacrest’s “American Idol” celebrity will offset the loss of the nightly “Howard Stern Show,” which reigned for a number of years as E!’s consistently highest-rated series. A bevy of Playboy bunnies might also keep some of the Stern audience as net has renewed “The Girls Next Door,” which goes behind the scenes at the Playboy mansion.

Subscribers: 90.6 million
Network topper: George Bodenheimer
Programming topper: John Skipper
Top originals: World Series of Poker, Knight School, Timeless
Upcoming originals: Bonds on Bonds (series), World Series of Darts (series), Ruffian (movie)
The skinny: The net’s ratings fell a few percentage points in 2005, but hopes are riding high in Bristol, Conn., when the sports behemoth makes a major move this year as Monday Night Football arrives in the fall. With a mix of baseball playoffs, college and pro football, 4.5 million viewers tuned into the network during one week in October — th
e biggest aud in the history of the net. World Series of Poker continues to be a big draw, but not everything’s coming up aces. Magazine-style “ESPN Hollywood” was a bust in trying to mix sports with entertainment. Turns out people don’t really care about Shaq’s latenight soirees.

Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Brooke Johnson
Programming topper: Bob Tuschman
Top original shows: Iron Chef America, Food Network Challenge, 30-Minute Meals, Emeril Live
Upcoming originals: Healthy Appetite With Ellie Krieger (series), Feasting on Asphalt (series)
The skinny: In total households for February 2006 vs. 2005 in primetime, total viewers were down slightly, but the 18-34 demo was up a healthy 22%. For the entire day, numbers were way up for all ages, indicating that viewers like to tune in for breakfast and lunch as well. President Brooke Johnson has put a solid lineup of chefs and foodies together who are sometimes more appealing than the meals they are presenting. It will be interesting to see if Rachael Ray’s popularity begins to wane or increase once she launches her daytime yakker from King World.

Subscribers: 85 million
Network topper: Roger Ailes
Programming topper: Bill Shine
Top originals: The O’Reilly Factor, Special Report With Brit Hume, On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, Fox Report With Shepard Smith
The skinny: In 1996, Fox News Channel defied the odds and a dominant CNN to create a competing 24-hour news service. A decade later, Fox is the dominant cable news outlet with an impenetrable primetime lineup that routinely beats the ratings of all its competition combined. In response, its rivals have spent the better part of the last five years tweaking, shuffling, overhauling and, yes, emulating FNC’s combination of attitude, opinion and production pizzazz. So far, it hasn’t worked, and the only meaningful contest is the race for second place. If FNC has a weakness, it would be its demo numbers, which reflect an average age of 65 and above, which is older than it would like. That’s little solace to CNBC, however: FNC is expected to launch Fox Business Channel later this year.

Subscribers: 88.4 million
Network topper: John Landgraf
Programming topper: Nick Grad
Top originals: Nip/Tuck, The Shield, Rescue Me
Upcoming originals: Thief (series)
The skinny: “Nip/Tuck” continued to flourish in its third season, becoming the most-watched series on basic or pay cable in 2005. The last episode, in which the murderous Carver was revealed, was the highest rated (18-49 demo) in the net’s history. “The Shield” opened up season five in January to strong numbers as well, and FX picked up 10 more episodes of the Michael Chiklis cop skein. R.J. Cutler reality series “Black. White.” debuted strong, tallying 4 million for its first episode (though the net took some heat for the way the series has been edited). On the down side, Steven Bochco’s controversial “Over There,” about the Iraq war, didn’t make it past the first season despite a heavy marketing push. And comedy “Starved” failed to make the cut as well.

Subscribers: 58.9 million
Network topper: Rich Cronin
Programming topper: Rich Cronin
Top originals: Lingo, High Stakes Poker, Anything to Win
Upcoming originals: I’ve Got a Secret (series), World Series of Blackjack (series)
The skinny: With the addition of “The Amazing Race” to last year’s lineup, cabler had a minor ratings push with younger demo but finished 2005 down 12% in total viewers. Yet 2006 looks promising. GSN finished the first quarter up 35% in household delivery and recently signed a three-series deal with Michael Davies, exec producer of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” While Davies’ projects have not been announced, cabler hopes to air the first series in the third quarter, while bolstering ratings and solidifying target demo, adults 25-54, with expanded interactive offering.

Subscribers: 72 million
Network topper: David Evans
Programming topper: David Kenin
Top originals: Mystery Woman, McBride
Upcoming originals: Though None Go With Me (movie), Where There’s a Will (movie), Blackbeard (movie)
The skinny: Nothing like some mysteries to scare up an audience. The good news is Hallmark enjoyed a 34% year-to-year growth by the end of 2005 after introducing its Mystery Movie franchise. The bad news is that the net still has the oldest audience demo in basic cable. However, its commitment to feel-good original movies and minis has established Hallmark as a viable competitor with Lifetime and other female-skewing cable nets, which should help loosen advertisers’ pocket books at the next upfront.

Subscribers: 28 million
Network topper: Chris Albrecht
Programming topper: Carolyn Strauss, Sheila Nevins
Top originals: The Sopranos, Rome, Deadwood, Entourage, Big Love
Upcoming originals: The Journalist and the Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl (doc), Billie Jean King (doc), Lucky Louie (series), Longford (movie)
The skinny: After a 21-month absence, the much-anticipated return of “The Sopranos” posted decent numbers, but nothing as big as the high it hit last season. ABC’s Sunday night competish — “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” — have taken that night’s thunder from the cabler, which now relies on weekly cumulative viewers for more comprehensive analysis. Pricey “Rome” performed well enough for a second-season renewal, and Albrecht is high on “Entourage,” which has received plenty of critical buzz. While the ratings may not be what they once were, hugely profitable cabler is making major inroads with VOD and other new-media services.

Subscribers: 89.1 million
Network topper: Judy Girard
Heads of programming: Michael Dingley, Mary Ellen Ewata
Top originals: House Hunters, House Hunters International, Designed to Sell, Cash in the Attic
Upcoming originals: Home to Stay (series), Takeover My Makeover (series), Design Star (series), What’s Your Sign Design (series)
The skinny: HGTV’s viewership was flat from 2004 to 2005, but this January saw their highest-ever monthly average. Now the home life-oriented cabler is looking to be aggressive: 10 new series and a whopping 21 specials are planned for 2006 — nine of them to premiere in April. Net is excited for July’s “Design Star,” in which 10 designers compete for their own HGTV show.

Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Dan Davids
Programming topper: Charlie Mayday
Top originals: Lincoln, Egypt: Engineering an Empire, Titanic’s Final Moments: Missing Pieces
Upcoming originals: Mega Disasters (series), Ten Days That Unexpectedly Changed America (special), Mega Movers (series)
The skinny: History Channel recorded its best-ever February sweeps with the help of “Titanic’s Final Moments,” which pulled in 2.4 million viewers. Cabler is hoping to make a similar splash with “Ten Days That Unexpectedly Changed America,” a series of 10 one-hour docus by directors including James Moll, Michael Cutler and Rory Kennedy. Net passed a 1.0 primetime household rating in 2004, and the numbers climbed modestly through 2005. Plans for 2006 are steady as well, with the cabler planning to continue its objective of presenting history that is both entertaining and relevant.

Subscribers: 37 m
Network topper: Evan Shapiro
Programming topper: Debbie DeMontreaux
Top originals: Henry’s Film Corner, Hopeless Pictures, The Festival
Upcoming originals: The Henry Rollins Show (series), Henry Rollins: Uncut From NYC (special)
The skinny: While IFC keeps its programming schedule chockful of offbeat movies — from low-budget American indies to subtitled foreign films — because its commercial free net has begun to step up its partnerships with advertisers, who pay a fee to sponsor individual programs or theme nights. The network also schedules a few original series to break the flow of wall-to-wall movies. “The Henry Rollins Show” comes back for a second season of 20 episodes focusing on musical acts, celebrity guests and on-location segments. The other original is “Samurai 7,” 26 half-hours of a Japanese animated series based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic “Seven Samurai” but transplanting it into the future to add a sci-fi spin.

Subscribers: 90 million
Network topper: Betty Cohen
Programming topper: Susanne Daniels
Top originals: Cheerleading Nation
Upcoming originals: Lovespring (series), Angela’s Eyes (series)
The skinny: Five years after reaching the top of the cable ratings mountain, Lifetime finds itself in a rebuilding mode after several fallow years creatively. Long-running drama “Strong Medicine” and the net’s tagline “Television for Women” are out, and former WB network entertainment chief Susanne Daniels is in. She and her team are pushing heavily into series programming, and they already have new dramas, comedies and reality skeins lined up. Reality skein “Cheerleading Nation” and upcoming police drama “Angela’s Eyes,” about a 20-something woman with the ability to sniff out liars, typify the net’s desire to reach younger women.

Subscribers: 87 million
Network topper: Rick Kaplan
Programming topper: Bill Wolff
Top originals: Hardball With Chris Matthews, Countdown With Keith Olbermann, Rita Cosby Live & Direct
The skinny: NBC Universal took full control of MSNBC from Microsoft late last year, allowing it to make all the programming and investment decisions — as well as reap all the profits. As the only cable news network grafted onto a network news division, MSNBC isn’t just a play for ratings but a way to amortize the cost of newsgathering across cable and broadcast. The net is perennially in third place and last year came dangerously close to fourth. But it has made some inroads that’s making CNN pay attention: “Hardball” and “Olbermann” now regularly beat CNN in the 25-54 demo, the only one that matters to news advertisers.

Network topper: Christina Norman
Programming topper: Lois Curren, Brian Graden
Top originals: Real World, The Gauntlet, Laguna Beach, Punk’d
Upcoming originals: Yo Mama (series), The Hills (series), Cheyenne (series)
The skinny: Given MTV’s key role in launching the cable revolution, it’s no surprise the net — via applications such as MTV Overdrive — is trying to take a leadership position in the burgeoning world of new media programming. But the net is also still very much in the traditional development game of nurturing new series hits and its record lately has been mixed. Brands such as “Real World” and “Punk’d” are rock solid, while relative newcomer “Laguna Beach” continues to connect with teens. Newer fare, however, such as “8th and Ocean” and “The Shop,” are still trying to find an audience.

Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Larry W. Jones
Programming topper: Sal Maniaci
Top originals: Hi-Jinks, Funniest Mom in America (NAN), TV Land Awards, TV Land Confidential
Upcoming originals: At the Poocharelli’s (series), Boomers Know Best (series)
The skinny: Nick at Nite and its TV Land spinoff continue to reap the benefits of small-screen nostalgia. Nick at Nite has resurrected classic sitcoms from broadcast limbo and, in the process, has become one of the top basic ad-supported cablers among adults 25-54, finishing 2005 ranked third behind TNT and USA.

Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Tom Ascheim
Programming topper: Marjorie Cohn
Top original shows: SpongeBob SquarePants, Zoey 101, Unfabulous
Upcoming originals: Tak and the Power of JuJu, (series) The Little JJ Show (series)
The skinny: Long the No. 1 network for kids, Nickelodeon is taking its game beyond the TV screen. Nets’ broadcasts now go out over 15 different platforms including video podcasts, and Nick just announced it was opening up Inkubators, an animation side designed to develop properties specifically for emerging nonlinear platforms. Content is also going from small to big: “Mr. Meaty” is a new series that originated on its broadband channel TurboNick along with “Barnyard” from the upcoming feature of the same name.

Subscribers: 66 million
Network topper: Geraldine Laybourne
Programming topper: Debby Beece
Top originals: Campus Ladies, Nighty Night, Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance
Upcoming originals: Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency (series), Ivana Young Man (special), Fight Girls (reality movie)
The skinny: Oxygen realized an 8 million subscriber hike when it partnered with Dish Network just last month. The biggest impact of the marriage is a bump in ad revenue, predicted to increase to $84 million this year, from $71 million in 2005. While the numbers are up (18% in auds 18-49), the cabler is set to experiment with reality show “The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency,” skedded to bow in June. On the technology front, cabler boasts “Webisodes” of top original skein “Campus Ladies,” available on iTunes.

Subscribers: 85 million
Network topper: Bonnie Hammer
Programming topper: Mark Stern
Top originals: Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica
Upcoming originals: Eureka (series), Nine Lives (series)
The skinny: No cable show got more love at the end of 2005 than “Battlestar Galactica,” hailed as TV’s No. 1 show by Time magazine. Drama helped keep Sci Fi one of the top destinations on Friday night, alongside the “Stargate” series. Next up: Sci Fi goes beyond space operas with the quirky “Eureka,” about a sheriff who stumbles across a sleepy town of government-employed geniuses.

Subscribers: 14 million
Network topper: Matthew Blank
Programming topper: Robert Greenblatt
Top originals: Weeds, Sleeper Cell, The L Word, Huff
Upcoming originals: Dexter (series), Brotherhood (series), Damon Wayans’ Underground (series)
The skinny: If cachet, and not necessarily ratings, are what Showtime is after, consider it mission accomplished. With the help of aggressive marketing tactics, “Weeds” lead Mary-Louise Parker took home the Golden Globe while Blythe Danner won the Emmy for her role as Hank Azaria’s meddling mom in “Huff.” Whether those accomplishments turn into higher viewership remains to be seen. “Huff” launches season two April 2 and “Weeds” has been renewed for another go-around as well. Greenblatt’s greenlights have proved provocative but, so far, hasn’t necessarily increased viewership and that will certainly raise the ire of Les Moonves, who now has Showtime under his watch.

Subscribers: 47.7 million
Network topper: Deborah Blackwell
Programming topper:
B> Claire Zrimc, MaryEllen DiPrisco
Top originals: Soapography, One Minute Soaps, SOAPnet’s Live From the Red Carpet of the Daytime Emmys
The skinny: Soap Net finished 2005 tied 10th in basic cable among its target demo (women 18-49) in primetime and is the No. 1 cabler in year-to-year distribution growth. While syndicated “Days of Our Lives” is the highest-ranked series, sudser station expects the third season of “I Wanna Be a Soap Star” to lure a bigger aud. First two seasons of the reality skein brought more than a million new viewers, upping total aud 5% in 2005 vs. 2004 and gaining 23% in adults 18-34. Soap Net launches Soapnetic on broadband in April, which is expected to strengthen the brand.

Subscribers: 90 million
Network topper: Doug Herzog
Programming topper: Pancho Mansfield
Top originals: Ultimate Fighter, MXC, Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling, Pros vs. Joes
Upcoming originals: Spike’s Most Amazing Videos (series), Blade (series), The Playbook (specials)
The skinny: Under the leadership of Herzog, Spike had held its own ratings-wise despite losing wrestling to USA. The “Ultimate Fighter” franchise, cult fave “MXC” and nightly airings of “CSI” have made it a destination for many men, but the net is looking to expand its aud by focusing on testosterone-heavy original dramas and action-adventure programming. Spike is developing more than a dozen shows from heavy-hitters such as Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and Denis Leary, with an eye toward a drama bow and possibly a limited-series in 2007. It has also skedded the auto awards show “AutoRox” as well as the “Spike TV Video Game Awards.” Net expects to pour $275 million into programming for 2007.

Subscribers: 23 million
Network topper: Larry Aidem
Programming topper: Laura Michalchyshyn
Top originals: Iconoclasts, Slings and Arrows
Upcoming originals: House of Boateng (series), The Hill (series), The Human Behavior Experiments (doc)
The skinny: With the financial help of sponsor Grey Goose, “Iconclasts” gave Sundance some much needed buzz to those outside the indie film world. Net is varying its programming menu, although smaller films are still the main component. “House of Boateng” and “The Hill,” about the lives of congressional assistants, could prove compelling. Without advertiser-funded coin and not big enough for ratings, Sundance is forced to be creative lineup-wise and looks to be continuing to shake up its sked.

Subscribers: 91 million
Network topper: Steve Koonin
Programming topper: Michael Wright
Upcoming originals: One of three comedy pilots: My Boys, Boy’s Life or The Jeff Garlin Project
The skinny: Net adopted its “Very Funny” tagline in 2004 and has carved out a niche as the primetime home to contemporary comedies such as “Sex and the City,” “Friends” and “Seinfeld,” making it among the top two or three cablers in the 18-34 demo. Its venture into reality programming has mostly been a bust (“Minding the Store,” “Daisy Does America”), so Wright, who took over the programming reins last fall, is making a push toward scripted comedies. Net will soon greenlight at least one comedy to series for the summer. In addition to comedy, TBS is the home to Braves baseball and, in the fall, Pac-10 and Big-12 football.

Subscribers: 72 million
Network topper: Tom Karsch
Programming topper: Charles Tabesch
Top originals: 31 Days of Oscar, Essentials
Upcoming originals: TCM Underground (series), The Cinema of Outsiders (series)
The skinny: The bread and butter of TCM remains classic pics, served up uncut and commercial free — not sexy, but a solid brand nonetheless. Biggest challenge for the Turner-owned net is getting younger auds to check out the channel, which is where new franchises such as “TCM Underground” come in. Weekly Friday showcase will highlight cult classics like “Shaft” or “Harold and Maude.” Cabler is also launching its own version of the Internet Movie Database to help auds find out more info about thousands of pics, and has recently struck on-demand deals with Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Subscribers: 89.7 million
Network topper: David Abraham
Programming chief: Christian Drobnyk
Top programs: Miami Ink, Trading Spaces, What Not to Wear
Upcoming shows: Honey, We’re Killing the Kids (series), Shalom in the Home (series), The Monastery (series)
The skinny: Just a couple years ago, TLC was riding high on “Trading Spaces” and other makeover shows. An overreliance on the genre caused ratings to plummet, however, forcing the net to rethink its brand. Shows such as “Tuckerville” and “Ballroom Bootcamp” have stopped the bleeding, but this spring’s crop of newcomers will be crucial. TLC’s new focus seems to be on programs with a more educational bent — a return to roots for a net once known as the Learning Channel. The net’s new tagline? Live and learn.

Subscribers: 90 million
Network topper: Steve Koonin
Programming topper: Michael Wright
Top originals: The Closer
Upcoming originals: Saved (series), Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King (series), The Ron Clark Story (movie)
The skinny: Along with USA, this Turner net consistently battles for primetime ratings supremacy. Buoyed by the strength of Kyra Sedgwick drama “The Closer,” the most-watched original series on basic cable, TNT is confident that it has another winner in Tom Everett Scott skein “Saved,” which bows in June. Network has also assembled eight mind-bending tales from Stephen King for the anthology series “Nightmares & Dreamscapes,” set for July. In addition to original series and movies plus repeats of theatricals and “Law & Order,” the network that says “We Know Drama” is also home to sporting events including NASCAR, the PGA and the NBA.

Subscribers: 84 million
Network topper: Patrick Young
Programming topper: Carey Kyler
Top originals: Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, Taste of America With Mark Decarlo, John Ratzenberger’s Made in America, 5 Takes
Upcoming originals: Fred Willard Does American Festivals (series), Jeremy Piven’s Journey of a Lifetime (special), This Job’s a Trip (series), Local Flavor With Joan Cusack (series)
The skinny: The Travel Channel traveled south in ratings in 2005 with primetime auds dropping 2% among adults 18-49. But with the preem of the four-part series, “Fred Willard Does American Festivals,” the cabler is hoping to earn some domestic love. Fans of “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” as well as “John Ratzenberger’s Made in America” will be happy to know these shows are available on podcast, as are episode highlights of “Weird Travels,” “Myste

Subscribers: 89 million
Network topper: Bonnie Hammer
Programming topper: Jeff Wachtel
Top originals: Monk, The 4400, The Dead Zone, Nashville Star
Upcoming originals: Psych (series)
The skinny: Buying back wrestling was the smartest move prexy Bonnie Hammer made for USA. Cabler now rides high as the top-rated cable network, surpassing rival TNT in the primetime game for the first time in several years. Execs are betting “Monk,” which is still going strong, will lead viewers into new dramedy “Psych,” about a detective whose psychic abilities are fake.

Subscribers: 88 million
Network topper: Tom Calderone
Programming topper: Michael Hirschorn
p originals:
Flavor of Love, Celebrity Fit Club, Storytellers
Upcoming originals: So Notorious (series), Rock Honors (special), SuperGroup (series)
The skinny: Since 2002 VH1 has strengthened its magnetic pull on viewers, delivering steady ratings growth, both in total viewers and in demo targets 18-34 and 18-49, and topped off by double-digit increases in 2005. Pop culture in all of its forms is the rallying cry of VH1’s programmers, led by an array of reality series such as “Hogan Knows Best,” “Celebrity Fit Club” “The Surreal Life.” VH1’s most popular show among young women is a rerun of “America’s Next Top Model,” which has its first play on UPN, a sister network. The network’s biggest new initiative is its first scripted series, “So Notorious,” a half-hour comedy starring Tori Spelling.

Subscribers: 58 million
Network topper: Ed Carroll
Programming topper: Kim Martin
Top original shows: Bridezillas, John Edward Cross Country, Skating’s Next Star, Two Funny: Cotter & Louise
Upcoming originals: Million Dollar Wedding (series) Hair Trauma (series)
The skinny: WE isn’t hurting for more originals, what they need is a noisemaker. Cabler is playing in a more crowded space than ever, having to contend with “Grey’s Anatomy,” a younger-skewing Lifetime and Oxygen’s brand of bawdy. To that end, WE is holding its ground — up 5% in total viewers and 3% in key demos. Meanwhile Kim Martin, unleashed a couple of heavy hitters up her sleeve that ought to break through the clutter with “John Edwards” and “Two Funny,” which follows the comics from NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”

Subscribers: 90 million
Network topper: Debora Wilson
Programming topper: Wonya Lucas
Top originals: Your Weather Today, Storm Stories, It Could Happen Tomorrow
Upcoming originals: Epic Conditions, Our Climate With Dr. Heidi Cullen

(Capsules written by: Josef Adalian, John Dempsey, Rick Kissell, Michael Learmonth, Stuart Levine, Lawrence Marcus, Denise Martin, Laura Repstad, Dena Seif and Kathy Tracy.)