Lifetime emerged the victor in second-quarter ratings, registering the biggest prime time increase of the 10 top-rated networks. Overall, Lifetime came in fifth for prime time, behind USA, TBS, TNT and Nickelodeon, but each of those networks either stalled or slid in the period.
Lifetime's prime time audience increased by 21%, from a 1.4 rating with 1 million households last year to a 1.7 rating/1.3 million households this year. Lifetime was lifted on the strength of its movies featuring embattled women finding their inner Xena. Meanwhile, Nick and TNT both slipped 10%; USA dropped 8%; and TBS stayed flat.
TBS and TNT suffered from drooping viewership of NBA games. USA's pain came from waning interest in cowboy karate. Ratings for Walker Texas Ranger, stripped across USA's weeknights at 8 p.m., have dropped, pulling with it the rest of prime time. Also, given USA's lost battle to keep WWF wrestling, it's relevant to note that, in total audience, 26 of the top-rated 27 basic cable programs were WWF's Monday-night spectacles.
The ratings reflect a six-month downward trend in prime time for the big general-entertainment networks, as people turned to niche networks. The History Channel was especially strong, up 29% from last year to a 0.9; FX was up 17%, to a 0.7; and Sci-Fi was up 14%, to a 0.8.
But VH1 fell 33% in prime time, from a 0.6 to a 0.4, despite a ramp-up in original movies and the addition of at least six new series. TNN, BET, TV Land and TLC all fell, while MTV, Comedy Central, HGTV and E! Entertainment remained flat..