Lifetime beats USA for 2Q ratings crown


The girls beat The Waterboy as Lifetime outran USA Network to grab first place in the prime time cable Nielsens for the second quarter.

The women-oriented network scored a 1.9 household rating for the three months ended Sunday, beating out USA's 1.8. USA was hoping to do better, making a Hail Mary play for a tie last week by throwing Adam Sandler theatrical The Waterboy on the Sunday schedule just three days in advance, bumping the tired Indecent Proposal. The Waterboy had gotten a 5.0 in its first airing the prior week, an USA was trying to keep its rating at 1.75 or higher, which Nielsen would round up to a 1.8. If Lifetime slipped just bit last week and rounded down to a 1.8, then USA would have tied for first.

Alas, the Lifetime lasses held on at a 1.86, and will get reported in first place by anyone reporting such things. "It was pretty dramatic at the end," said Lifetime CEO Carole Black, who has now sheparded the network into first place for two consecutive quarters. "I'm just thrilled because of the whole team working so hard."

USA could have used something to brag about. The network's ratings are down 12% while adults 18-49 fell 19% and adults 25-54 fell 11%. That's largely the price of losing WWF wrestling to TNN last fall, but not entirely. TNT and Cartoon Network tied for third with a 1.7, but TNT's rating dropped 11% and the once-growing Cartoon was flat. TBS came in foruth at a 1.6, down 16%.

The biggest gainer in prime time was TNN, which posted a 67% gain to a 1.0, in large part on the strength of the aforesaid WWF shift. The wrestling shows are the corenerstone of the network's attempt at a total overhaul in the hands for relavtively-new owner Viacom, which is about 10 months into a programming upgrade. Betsy Frank, executive vice president of research for Viacom's MTV Networks, said that TNN is benefitting from stronger acquisitions of movies and series than TNN had under previous owner CBS and that the network seems to be doing a better job of holding onto its wrestling audience for other shows than USA ever did. The WWF is a huge boost, with just two hours of its standard 5.0 ratings materially juicing TNN's primetime rating for the whole week. Frank said that TNN would still have "double-digit" percentage gain even neutralizing the strong effects of the WWF.

Other gainers include The Travel Channel, Bravo and Odyssey, each up 33% to a 0.4. Food Network rose 25% to a 0.5 and BET rose 20% to a 0.6.The big primetime losers were ESPN2 (-20%), ESP (-18%), USA, Nickelodeon (-17%), TBS (-16%) and AMC (-13%). - John Higgins
Only 11 of of the 43 Nielsen-rated basic networks posted a gain for the quarter. Another 10 were down, the remainder flat or not rated last year.
Nickeloden remained the top-rated network on a total-day basis at a 1.4. Lifetime was second with a 1.2.