Cartoon continues its climb

Adults drive Turner's kids network into second place in prime time ratings

Cartoon Network is nothing to kid about. The exploits of Ed, Edd n Eddy, Cow and Chicken and the geeky hero of Dexter's Lab won more nights than any other cable network and generated a 2.0 rating, its best month yet. Cartoon was second only to USA in July prime time, beating out TNT and TBS, the other Turner strongholds that usually occupy the position.

The quiet rise of Cartoon Network has been in the making for months, from the No. 9 slot in January, to No. 5 through March, April and May, and then No. 3 in June. The network was No. 1 with kids in prime time for July. but its popularity among adult viewers showed substantial growth: While kids 2-11 were up 31% over last year, adults 18-49 were up 40%, and adults 25-54 rose 42%.

The way Cartoon sees it, No. 1 is a matter of time, since USA's hold on the top spot is driven by the WWF, which USA loses this fall. USA, for all its efforts to find an original hit program, slipped 8% in prime time, to a 2.2.

TBS came in No. 3 for July, followed by Nickelodeon, which continues to dominate during the day and registered its most-watched month ever. Lifetime was No. 4 in prime time with its 12th straight month of ratings growth. At No. 6 was TNT, down 11% despite the success of its miniseries Nuremberg, which drew the largest audience of any original miniseries in cable.

MTV continued a slide that started last month after months of posting increases, falling 18% in prime time from a year ago. ESPN also fell 17% on a monthly up-and-down trajectory that reflects sports followings.

History Channel was one of the big winners, with a 33% gain in prime time, and Court TV's roll continued with a 75% gain in prime time for the network's best month ever. Of the 38 cable networks measured, only 11 posted gains from their July 1999 ratings, another 11 were flat, and the rest slipped.