Another Hot Summer for Cable


Cable is about to register its fourth-straight summer ratings win over the broadcast networks.

With one week left in the summer -- at least by cable's definition -- ad-supported cable will beat out the seven broadcast networks by 12 share points. Cable is tracking at a 57 share of viewing, compared to 35.7 for broadcast. Those figures include week one of NBC's Olympic Games coverage, which has been earning good ratings. Broadcast's share could rise slightly next week when the final Olympic ratings are factored in.

That won't dim cable's exuberance though. The 35 share, "is an important place to think of as a tipping point for broadcast vs. ad-supported cable," says Turner's research chief Jack Wakshlag.

USA Network and TNT are leading the cable assault. The networks are nearly dead-locked in total viewers and adults 18-49. Through Aug. 23, USA was winning out, with an average 2.541 million viewers in prime and 1.12 million adults 18 to 49. TNT paced at 2.449 million viewers and 1.117 million adults 18 to 49. Both have big programming this weekend that could drive up ratings, a NASCAR race on TNT and USA's original series Monk and The Dead Zone. TNT is leading a tight race for adults 25 to 54.

In the 18 to 34 year old demo, TBS will be the most-watched this summer with an average 526,000 viewers in prime. Off-nets of Sex and The City and original romance reality show Outback Jack helped prop up Nielsen marks. MTV placed second, followed by TNT and USA.

Discovery Channel posted strong gains, particularly among young viewers. Discovery's 18 to 34 delivery soared 20% and, among adults 18 to 49, ratings perked up 9%. Comedy Central is also on the move, with delivery to 18 to 34s up 23% and 18 to 49 jumping 26%.

FX is one of the summer's best stories. Both its original dramas Nip/Tuck and Rescue Me are firing and theatricals are rating well. FX averaged 1.266 million viewers in prime, a 34% jump from last summer. The net's 18 to 49 delivery soared 45%.