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Ratings: AMC, Discovery, Cartoon Network Are Cable Standouts of 2015

USA is Most-Watched Entertainment Net for 10th Straight Year

In an overall challenging ratings year for basic-cable entertainment networks, AMC, Discovery and Cartoon Network have gone against the grain to emerge as the standout performers of 2015.

While other top-10 entertainment networks like USA, FX and History lost 15% or more of their primetime viewership among adults 18-49, AMC and Discovery both gained audience in the key demo, according to Nielsen’s “live plus-3” estimates through Dec. 16. Cartoon Network meanwhile, saw the biggest gains among top-25 cable networks in the demo while finishing No. 1 among ad-supported cable networks in its core kids 6-11 demo for the first time.

Also having a strong year was HGTV, which grew across the board and cracked the top 10 in some categories. Other top-50 entertainment networks on the rise in 2015 were (in decreasing size of their demo audience): E!, ID, FXX, Hallmark, OWN, Disney Junior, Science, GSN and TV1. WeTV, TVLand and LMN were flat.

The top-50 cable entertainment networks seeing declines of 20% or more in 2015 were (in decreasing size of their audience): History, A&E, MTV, Comedy, Nickelodeon and Oxygen. Numerous others were down 10% or more.

AMC moved up three spots in the year-end network rankings to place fourth in primetime 18-49 viewers, according to Nielsen’s L+3 averages. It grew 9% in the demo (as well as 12% in adults 25-54) thanks to the continued strength of “The Walking Dead” — TV’s No. 1 entertainment series — as well as newcomers “Better Call Saul,” “Fear the Walking Dead” and “Into the Badlands.”

The three rookies logged the three highest premiere ratings for any series in basic cable history, pushing “Walking Dead” to No. 4 on this list. “Better Call Saul” became the network’s first Monday hit as it moved to the night after its post-“Dead” debut, while “Badlands” has held up well without the zombie drama behind it, ranking as cable’s No. 3-rated original series in 18-49 during December.

AMC has become a favorite destination of fans of its original series. In fact, AMC’s average 18-49 viewership for its original series in 2015 (3.92 million) is highest among all television networks — followed by CBS (2.75 million), ABC (2.63 million), NBC (2.50 million) and Fox (2.43 million).

Discovery had the year’s No. 1 unscripted series on cable in adults 18-49 with “Gold Rush,” and the network could also claim the top three reality shows in total viewers (“Gold Rush,” “Alaskan Bush People” and “Naked and Afraid XL”). It once again was especially dominant among men, airing the top five cable reality series in men 25-54 and ranking No. 1 among non-sports cable networks in the demo for 2015.

The network was strong throughout the year, including setting records in the first quarter and then having its best summer ever in key demos and total viewers thanks in part to its top-rated Shark Week ever in primetime among adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and women 25-54.

Cartoon Network, which added hit series “We Bare Bears” this year, is on track to finish as television’s No. 1 ad-supported network with kids 6-11 for the first time in network history. It finishes up a little in kids 6-11, kids 2-11 and is home to seven of the top 10 animated shows on television among boys 6-11 and 9-14.

TBS and USA remained the top two cable entertainment networks in adults 18-49 (behind only ESPN overall) despite year-over-year declines, with the Turnet network making it four straight years as No. 1 in the demo. USA was able to stay on top for a 10th straight year in total viewers, thanks to wrestling powerhouse “WWE Monday Night Raw” and hit series like “Suits,” “Chrisley Knows Best” and newcomer “Mr. Robot.”

Also extending its dominance in 2015 was Adult Swim, which ruled for an 11th straight year as the No. 1 cable network on a total-day basis in adults 18-24, 18-34 and 18-49. The network, which also led primetime among the 18-34 crowd, was boosted by “Rick and Morty,” which swelled 67% in the demo vs. its rookie season, as well as an expanding list of original series including “Black Jesus,” “Mr. Pickles” and “Mike Tyson Mysteries.”

ESPN was down in the single-digits but remained No. 1 among all cable networks in 18-49, 25-54 and total viewers (2.11 million). Elsewhere in sports, FS1 (309,000) was up 14% in primetime, and NBCSN (150,000) was down 7%.

Final numbers for cable news networks will be released next week by Nielsen. Fox News Channel will again finish on top and was up from last year, while CNN is finishing with the biggest gains.

TOP CABLE ENTERTAINMENT NETWORKS
(Live plus-3 for Dec. 29, 2014-Dec. 16, 2015)

Adults 18-49 ……… thousands ………. vs. last year
ESPN ……………………..  913 …………..    down 8%
TBS ……………………….   833 ………….    down 9%
USA ……………………….  729 ………….    down 19%
AMC ………………………  711 …………..       up 9%
DISC ………………………  670 ………….       up 3%
ADSM ……………………   669 ……………   down 1%
FX …………………………  610 …………..    down 18%
FAM ……………………..   511  ……………   down 14%
HIST ……………………..  479 …………….  down 25%
BRAVO ………………….  478 …………….  down 12%
FOOD ……………………. 468 ……………   down 4%
TNT ………………………  466 ……………   down 14%
HGTV ……………………  459 …………….     up 8%
LIFE ……………………… 437 …………….   down 7%
VH1 ………………………  407 …………….   down 9%
SYFY ……………………   402 ……………..  down 15%
A&E ………………………  400 …………….   down 25%
Disney ……………………  393 ……………..  down 7%
Spike …………………….. 391 ……………..  down 12%
MTV ……………………… 373 ……………..  down 23%
Comedy …………………. 373 ……………..  down 20%
TOON ……………………  367 ……………..     up 15%
TLC ……………………….  367 …………….  down 19%
NAN ………………………  337 …………….  down 15%
E! ………………………….  315 ……………..    up 2%

Total Viewers ……….. millions ………… vs. last year
ESPN ……………………..  2.11 ………….     down 7%
FNC ……………………….  1.84 ………….      up 4%
USA ……………………….  1.84 ………….    down 14%
TBS ……………………….  1.80 …………..   down 1%
Disney ……………………  1.74 …………..   down 10%
DISC ……………………..  1.56 …………..      up 11%
HIST ……………………..  1.51  …………..   down 18%
TNT ………………………  1.48 ……………  down 16%
HGTV ……………………  1.48 …………….    up 12%
NICK …………………….  1.40 ……………   down 25%
AMC ……………………..  1.39 ……………    up 3%
ADSM ……………………  1.29 …………….   down 3%
FX ………………………..  1.22 …………….   down 13%
TOON ……………………  1.20 …………….   down 8%
FOOD …………………… 1.11 ……………..     up 4%
LIFE ……………………..  1.04 …………….  down 7%
NAN ……………………..  1.01 ……………..  down 22%
FAM ……………………..  1.01 ……………..  down 17%
Syfy ………………………  1.00 ……………..  down 12%
A&E ………………………  0.94 …………….  down 25%
TLC ………………………. 0.93 …………….   down 14%
HALL ……………………. 0.91 …………….       up 2%
ID …………………………  0.89 ……………       up 9%
Bravo ……………………  0.86 …………….   down 12%
Spike …………………….  0.79 …………….   down 10%

Source: Nielsen (M-Su 8-11 p.m.)

 

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