Lifetime Edges USA for Ratings Victory

Lifetime Television's primetime ratings streak continued — but just barely.

The women's-skewing network averaged a 1.9 household rating during primetime in the second quarter to edge USA Network's 1.8 rating — an average boosted by several late June showings of the Adam Sandler vehicle The Waterboy, according to Nielsen Media Research figures provided by Turner Broadcasting System Inc. The victory in the period — spanning April 2 through July 1 — gave Lifetime its second consecutive quarterly ratings win.

Nickelodeon ran its skein of total-day triumphs to 23 consecutive quarters, as Viacom Inc.'s kid-vid champion topped Lifetime in that measurement, according to the Turner analysis of Nielsen data. Nick scored a 1.4 for total-day topping Lifetime's 1.2 rating and a 1.1 rating for Cartoon Network. Cartoon did make headlines during the quarter by tying Nick during the weeks of June 11-17 and June 25 to July 1.

Overall, ratings for ad-supported cable networks beat the weighted average of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox during the quarter. Cable averaged a 25.4 rating, up 8.1 percent compared to the same period last year, while the four broadcast networks earned a 24.2 rating, a 10.3-percent drop from second quarter 2000.

Lifetime was the only basic cable network among the top five to improve its ratings performance, posting a 12-percent increase from second quarter 2000. USA was down 18 percent from last year.

In an effort to wrestle the title away from Lifetime, USA scheduled additional showings of the blockbuster movie The Waterboy
during the final weekend of the ratings period, but fell short of its goal. TBS Superstation's July 1 premiere of the comedy Rush Hour
scored a 5.9 household rating on the quarter's last night, blunting USA's last-minute gambit to grab the crown. The Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker film was highest-rated program during a quarter dominated by The National Network's World Wrestling Federation programming.

A mix of strong ratings performances from its Sunday night original series, as well as several original movies, helped push Lifetime to its ratings victory, senior vice president of research Tim Brooks said.

"I believe it's the first time a branded niche network has won consecutive quarters," he said. "Not only did our Sunday original series and movies perform well, they were able to bring viewers to other shows on the network."

Brooks believes that the network will continue to draw impressive ratings during the summer months as the network unveils new episodes of several original series, including Any Day Now
and Strong Medicine.

Turner Broadcasting Networks Inc.-owned services rounded out the top five. Turner Network Television and Cartoon tied for third with a 1.7 rating — although TNT's ratings were down 11 percent, while Cartoon finished even with last year's numbers. TBS Superstation placed fifth, with a 1.6 rating, down 16 percent.

TNN, on the strength of its WWF programming, continued its string of impressive quarterly performances. The network's 1.0 second-quarter rating was a whopping 67 percent higher than last year's primetime performance.

Other networks registering strong gains in the period include: Bravo, Travel Channel and Odyssey Network all up 33 percent to a 0.4; Food Network ahead 25 percent to a 0.5 and Black Entertainment Television, a 20-percent advance to a 0.6.

ESPN and ESPN2 both took ratings hits during the quarter. ESPN's 0.9 rating was down 18 percent from second quarter 2000, while ESPN2's 0.4 rating declined 20 percent.

MTV: Music Television suffered an 11-percent ratings slide to a 0.8.

In the all-news arena, Fox News Channel beat Cable News Network for a second consecutive quarter. FNC pulled a 0.7 rating, jumping 40 percent from the same period last year, while CNN's 0.6 primetime rating was even with last year. Both CNN and FNC posted a 0.3 total-day rating during the second quarter.

MSNBC averaged a 0.4 rating in primetime, and a 0.3 rating in the total-day period.

But MSNBC boasted that it continues to have the youngest news audience. The average MSNBC primetime viewer is 50-years-old, compared to 59 at FNC and 61 at CNN.

On the business news battle, CNBC boasted that Business Center
topped Lou Dobbs Moneyline
by 25 percent, but CNN said that Dobbs, who rejoined the network in May, is chipping away at CNBC's lead.

TNT and USA finished first and second in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 and 25-to-54 primetime-delivery race.