Turner Network Television, USA Network, Nick at Nite and Disney Channel earned the most viewers on cable during the first quarter of 2005, averaging 2.6 million, 2.4 million, 2 million and 1.92 million viewers in prime time, respectively.
The most viewed programs for the quarter were: Jan. 2’s Cowboys/Giants game on ESPN (8.64 million viewers between 8:30 and 11:30 p.m.), Feb. 20’s East vs. West game on TNT (8.08 million total viewers between 8:56 and 11:33 p.m.), Dec. 31’s Florida/Miami game on ESPN (6.63 million total viewers between 7:30 and 11:11 p.m.), Feb. 2’s State of the Union analysis on Fox News (6.35 million total viewers between 1-:04 and 10:12 p.m.) and March 20’s Comedy Central Roast of Jeff Foxworthy (6.20 million total viewers between 10 and 11:30).
Not surprisingly, the biggest gainers year-over-year in prime, percentage-wise, were networks with small audiences to begin with, though the gains were impressive nonetheless. Noggin/The N, were up 123% from 57,000 viewers to 127,000, and Turner South was up 120% from 46,000 to 101,000 viewers.
The Discovery networks continued to show viewership declines. Discovery channel was down 26% (1.37 to 1.01 million viewers in prime); TLC was down 34% (1.18 million to 775,000 viewers in prime); and Animal Planet was down 12% (676,000 to 594,000 viewers in prime).
One bright spot at Discovery: Discovery Health was up 43%, from 159,000 to 228,000 viewers.
Notable gains came from Spike – up 44% year-to-year from 1.08 million to 1.56 million total viewers in prime; Nat Geo – up 67% from 162,000 to 270,000 total viewers; Comedy Central – up 19% from 875,000 to 1.04 million total viewers; and Cartoon Network – up 17% from 1.59 million to 1.85 million total viewers in prime.
Cartoon also set a personal best for delivery of 18-24 (278,000) and 18-34 (559,000) viewers for its late night block, Adult Swim, which will be spun off as a separate Nielsen ratings track later this month.
On the cable news front, Fox News was up 15% year-to-year in the first quarter, from 1.39 million to 1.6 million viewers in prime; CNN was stable at 808,000 and MSNBC was down 8% from 333,000 to 308,000 viewers in prime.
Headline News, which launched a new prime time block, Headline Prime, in March, was up 23% from 204,000 to 250,000 viewers in prime – largely as a result of Nancy Grace, which in its first month on the air (March, 2005) averaged 518,000 total viewers and set a record for the network in that time period.
The Headline Prime block (7-10 p.m.) has increased Headline News’ viewership 66% year over year in its time period since its launch.