Though failing to make the dramatic inroads against broadcast nets that cable executives had predicted, cable's vigorous promotion has produced some growth this summer.
Total cable viewership has increased slightly from summer 2000, when cable nets faced stiff competition from CBS's Survivor
and ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?. So far this summer, cable is averaging a 28.6 rating, two points higher than last summer's average 26.6 rating, according to media buying firm Initiative Media. This summer's highest ratings came in July, when several big movies and specials like Nickelodeon's Rugrats
10th-anniversary special (July 21, 7.2 rating) and Discovery's When Dinosaurs Roamed America
(July 15, 3.6 rating) boosted cable to a 29.4 average rating.
Several nets scored single-night successes with original movies. As broadcast nets have moved away from expensive made-for-TV movies, nine networks filled the void with their own originals this summer. Lifetime's Dangerous Child
(July 16, 5.2 rating), TBS's The Triangle
(Aug. 12, 4.9 rating) and Animal Planet's The Retrievers
(July 30, 1.8 rating) were among the best performers, particularly in comparison with those networks' usual ratings.
Original drama series thrived on three networks. HBO triumphed with its new hit Six Feet Under, logging an 11.1 rating among subscribers, and TNT's fantasy drama series Witchblade
averaged a 2.3 rating, good enough to earn a second run next summer. Lifetime's Sunday-night original-drama block helped the women's net retain the lead in prime time ratings all summer.