Lifetime Television is indeed emerging as the biggest winner of the wrestling-induced cable Nielsen shakeout. The women's network emerged as the top-ranked cable network in prime time, rising as USA Network's ratings plunged.
Network executives have been expecting lots of jockeying for the number-one slot because the World Wrestling Federation's September shift of its hugely-popular Monday night WWF Raw show from USA to TNN. That alone was expected to cut USA's ratings by .3-.4 ratings points. But for the January ratings period (which actually ended Sunday, Jan. 28) USA plunged 30% from a 2.7 to a 1.9.
At the same time, Lifetime's steady growth carried the network from a 1.9 to a 2.1 Nielsen score, leaving USA in second place. TNT tied USA, while TBS followed up with a 1.8. The non-WWF portion of TNN's schedule is too weak to put the network anywhere near the top.
January was seen as the first test month of the post-WWF order because ESPN gets unusually high ratings for its fall NFL games. On a total-day basis, Nickelodeon remained the top-rated channel with a 1.5, change from the same period last year. In the news wars, Fox News tied CNN in total day and primetime ratings, with both networks scoring a 0.4 in total day Nielesens and 0.8 in prime. - John Higgins