Lifetime ratings rate bubbly

The champagne literally came out when Nielsen declared at Lifetime Television the top network in primetime for the first quarter, the first time the network was in that slot for an entire quarter.

Lifetime finished the three month period ended Sunday with a 2.0 household rating, averaging 1.59 million homes a night. That beat out the typically top-ranked USA Network's 1.9 rating and 1.54 million households, a 21% drop from the loss of WWF wrestling shows to TNN.

Scoring the top household rating offers mostly bragging rights since networks sell ad time based on viewership by particular demographic groups. But it's certainly a sign of strong momentum. At 3:30 p.m., Lifetime staffers on both coasts popped the corks on President Carole Black's preferred champaign Veuve Clicquot and nibbled chocolate-covered strawberries. "That's how women celebrate," Black said.

The ranking comes 10 days after Black's two-year anniversary at the network. The network gets most of its viewers from movies, new origionals, reruns and theatricals. But it has also enjoyed success with new series Any Day Now and Strong Medicine.

USA just edged out TBS Superstation, which also scored a 1.9 household rating, but lagged just a hair, just 3,000 fewer million average viewers. TBS's rating was up 6%. Fourth-ranked Cartoon Network also increase 6% to a 1..7. Big gainers include Travel Channel, up 67% to a 0.5; TNN, up 57% to a 1.1 on the strength of its WWF-led overhaul; and Bravo, up 33% to a 0.4. - John Higgins
Big losers include The Weather Channel, which dropped 25% to a 0.3 (revenge for that muffed New York City blizzard forecast, no doubt); ESPN, also down 25% to a 0.9; and TV Land, off 13% to 0.7.