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Cartoon, Nick: Fit To Be Tied

For the first time since 1995, Nickelodeon is not the undisputed household ratings leader among basic-cable networks when gauged on a total-day basis. Rival Cartoon Network tied kidvid's traditional kingpin for the week of June 11 through June 17.

Both Cartoon and Nick averaged a 1.3 rating for the period, according to Nielsen Media Research. The networks were also knotted in first place among the emerging tweens demo, the 9-to-14 age group.

Cartoon's ratings rise was paced by its seven-hour Powerpuff Girls
"Papathon" on Father's Day (June 17). The stunt more than doubled the network's delivery — to some 418,000 viewers — and notched a 92-percent ratings jump among the nine-through-14 set, compared with the same span last year, according to the channel.

But while Cartoon may share bragging rights for the week, Nickelodeon spokesman David Bittler said the Viacom Inc. network's second-quarter performance is on pace to keep Nick in the top slot for the 23rd consecutive quarter.

"We're 17 percent ahead of the No. 2 competitor, which is Lifetime [Television], and 22 percent of third-place Cartoon Network," Bittler said.

Cartoon Network president Betty Cohen said strong ratings performances from other shows such as The Flintstones, Johnny Bravo
and Dexter's Laboratory
— all of which placed among cable's top 50-rated shows for the week — also helped the animated channel's Nielsen ascension.

"What we're seeing is tremendous bench strength from our lineup; we're really not relying on any one show," said Cohen, who will leave her post on July 16 to pursue multiplatform programs and services aimed at teens and young adults for parent AOL Time Warner Inc. "The kids are finally out of school, so we expect our ratings to continue to climb."

In fact, Cohen predicted that the summer break and the network's seasonal lineup could help Cartoon challenge Nickelodeon for the total-day ratings crown in the third quarter.

"We tend to get better and better with kids as we go through July and August," Cohen said.