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Cable Nets Bask in Summer Sun

Lifetime’s having one hot summer in the ratings. The network earned 15% more total viewers in July over last year (1.91 million versus 1.67 million). That’s largely due to the success of limited series BeachGirls and summer movies Murder in the Hamptons and The Dive From Clausen’s Pier.

Beach Girls’July 31 premiere was the most-viewed series debut in the network’s history. The back-to-back episode premiere earned 3.6 million total viewers and a 3.2 household rating. Murder in the Hamptons earned 4.8 million total viewers and The Dive From Clauson’s Pier earned 4.2 million. Lifetime Movie Network is up as well, growing 18% to 446,000 total viewers in prime for the month.

Other notable July year-to-year gains in total viewers in prime:

  • The Weather Channel—up 57% to 444,000 total viewers, due to a boost from the month’s hurricanes and tropical storms;
  • The Hallmark Channel—up 25% to 1.04 million total viewers, largely due to a pair of original movies (The Colt and Back to You and Me);
  • Nick at Nite—up 18% to 1.9 million (its most viewed month ever) due to its “Easy Summer TV” marathons of newer sitcoms including Roseanne;
  • TV Land—up 28% to 1.01 million, due in part to a marathon of new acquisition Good Times;
  • AMC—up 20% to 1.08 million due to high- rated summer blockbusters like Independence Day; and
  • Disney Channel – up 8% to 2.21 million total viewers, with the top two basic cable telecasts with kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14 in the premiere of original movie Life is Ruff and a special episode of That’s So Raven.

Several major cable networks took dips, even those who have seen stellar ratings for their summer originals – USA, for example, successfully brought back Monk, The 4400 and The Dead Zone this summer, but was still down 12% in prime to 2.26 million total viewers in July. Network brass attribute the drop to the sheer glut of competition from other cable originals, and the fact it would be hard for The 4400 to top the numbers it posted last season, when it broke records as a limited series.

Other dips in prime were seen by ESPN – down 21% in prime to 1.18 million total viewers; Bravo, down 18% to 447,000 total viewers; FX, down 16% to 1.13 million total viewers; and ABC Family, down 14% to 1.10 million total viewers.

Among the cable news networks, Fox News grew 38% to 1.91 million total viewers in prime; CNN dropped 3% to 713,000; Headline News was up 99% to 413,000, largely due to superstar host Nancy Grace; MSNBC was down 11% to 280,000 and CNBC was down 13% to 115,000.

And on the Discovery Networks watch, Discovery Health continues to be a bright spot in Billy Campbell’s portfolio, growing 37% to 268,000 total viewers in prime. TLC was down 27% to 684,000 total viewers and Discovery was down 10% to 1.03 million total viewers.