Cable snares share

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Thanks largely to big Nielsen Media Research ratings declines at ABC and Fox, the four-network household share of prime time audience will fall to a historic low this
season -- 47 percent.

Not only is it a record low, but it's also the first time the four-network share
has dropped below 50 percent.

This season's decline was about 7 percent versus the 51 share the "Big Four" held onto
last season.

And the audience apparently migrated to cable, which will post an 8 percent share
gain this season, according to CBS executive vice president David Poltrack, who
oversees the company's research department.

United Paramount Network and The WB Television Network each will end up with an average 4 share this season, flat
from a year ago.

The six-network share of audience therefore drops four points (7 percent) to
55 percent.

ABC alone dropped four household share points this season and a record 25 percent
in household rating.

Fox and CBS each declined one share point, while NBC was up two share
points.

But Poltrack said the four-network decline itself probably doesn't mean much
in terms of ad sales.

"It's the individual network performance that matters," he said. "This season,
you had the broadcast networks moving in dramatically different directions" in
the ratings.

That was true on the cable side, as well, he said: Some of the big cable
networks were up, and some were down, which was also true of the smaller cable
networks.

Season to date, through May 19, NBC was the only Big Four network to show
Nielsen ratings gains in households, viewers, adults 18 through 49 and adults 25 through 54.

The household numbers: NBC 8.8/15 (+11 percent), CBS 8.1/13 (-6 percent), ABC 6.3/10
(-25 percent) and Fox 5.7/9 (-7 percent).

Among adults 18 through 49: NBC 5.3/14 (+10 percent), Fox 4/11 (-11 percent), CBS 3.9/10 (-3 percent) and
ABC 3.6/10 (-18 percent).

CBS made the point that among regularly scheduled programs, it's up 5 percent among
adults 18 through 49 for the season and in second place behind
NBC.

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