If Nielsen ratings for the basic-cable networks during the second quarter are any indication, this summer will be a “watershed” period for the cable industry in its efforts to erode network viewing levels.
So says Tim Brooks, USA Network’s ratings maven.
Based on second-quarter ratings, the combined basic-cable rating was a 20.6 (percentage of the nation’s 97 million TV households), representing about 19,982,000 households. That’s up from an 18.2 during the same period a year ago when basic cable combined for an average audience of 17,654,000 households.
Conversely, the four major broadcast networks this spring averaged a 30.4 rating, representing 29,501,000 households tuned in. That’s down from the 31.7 rating, with 30,375,000 households, generated by the same networks during the second quarter of 1996.
“I see the summer of ‘97 as a watershed in some ways,” Brooks said.
Cable ratings, he noted, should jump this summer for two reasons: First the broadcast networks are losing ground and second, many of the major basic-cable networks are investing heavily in original fare to air during the summer months. “The audience being available and us being ready to take advantage of them should make the difference,” Brooks said.
Brooks again reiterated his forecast that come the summer of 1998, the basic-cable networks could deliver more homes combined than will the Big Three networks. However, he readily admits, none of the cable networks even approaches the audience levels the networks attract.
Meanwhile, TNT was the most-watched cable network in prime time this spring. Boosted by its coverage of the NBA playoffs, TNT averaged 1,744,000 homes in prime time, up 19 percent from the same period a year ago.
TNT was followed in order by TBS, with 1,327,000 homes (flat); Nickelodeon, with 1,313,000 homes (up 12 percent); USA Network with 1,264,000 homes (down 5 percent); and Lifetime, with 1,056,000 (up 14 percent).
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