Lifetime hits No. 1

Women's network on top for an entire quarter for the first time

The champagne literally came out when Nielsen declared Lifetime Television the top cable network in prime time for the first quarter—the first time the network was in that slot for an entire quarter.

Lifetime finished the three-month period ended Sunday, April 1, with a 2.0 household rating, averaging 1.59 million homes a night. That beat out the typically top-ranked USA Network's 1.9 rating and 1.54 million households, a 21% attributed to the loss of WWF wrestling shows to TNN.

Scoring the top household rating offers mostly bragging rights since networks sell ad time based on viewership by particular demographic groups. But it's certainly a sign of strong momentum. At 3:30 p.m., Lifetime staffers on both coasts popped the corks on President Carole Black's preferred champagne Veuve Clicquot and nibbled chocolate-covered strawberries.

"That's how women celebrate," Black said.

The ranking comes 10 days after Black's two-year anniversary at the network. When Black first arrived, she declared at a staff meeting that the network would go to No. 1, and staffers chuckled. "We were like, 'No. 1 what? '" said one Lifetime executive.

The network gets most of its viewers from movies—new originals, reruns and theatricals. But it has also enjoyed success with new series Any Day Now and Strong Medicine.

USA just edged out TBS Superstation, which also scored a 1.9 household rating but lagged a hair with just 3,000 fewer viewers. TBS' rating was up 6%. Fourth-ranked Cartoon Network also increased 6%, to a 1.7. Big gainers include Travel Channel, up 67%, to a 0.5; TNN, up 57%, to a 1.1 on the strength of its WWF-led overhaul; and Bravo, up 33%, to a 0.4.

Losers include The Weather Channel, which dropped 25%, to a 0.3 (the result of that muffed New York City blizzard forecast, no doubt); ESPN, also down 25%, to a 0.9; and TV Land, off 13%, to 0.7.