More Viewers Pick Cable Over Broadcast in ’03

For the second straight year, ad-supported cable networks are commanding a larger share of TV viewing than the broadcast networks. Through Dec. 14, cable had averaged a 50.3 share, while the seven broadcast networks combined for a 44.6 share, according to Turner Broadcasting System’s analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. The gap has widened from 2002, when cable edged out broadcast by 2 share points.

TNT is on track to finish as the most-watched cable channel with an average 2.3 million viewers in prime and a 2.0 household rating. Lifetime, last year’s No. 1, recorded 1.8 million viewers, off about 20%, and a 1.7 household rating, down 15%.

The Disney Channel also had a big year with prime time ratings up 31%. Disney also made gains in the key kids demos, including a 40% increase in girls 2- to 11-years-old and a 37% rise in kids 2-11.

Two of the biggest gainers were Fox News and CNN. For the year, Fox is averaging a 1.7 rating and 1.7 million viewers, up 46%. Rival CNN follows with a 1.0 rating and 1.1 million viewers, a 23% increase.

All but one of the year’s top ten programs were sports, eight pro football games on ESPN and TNT’s showing of the NBA All-Star Game. The year’s most-watched cable show was ESPN’s Nov. 16 Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots game, which attracted 11.7 million viewers. The MTV 2003 Video Awards, which pulled in 10.7 million viewers, was the lone non-sports show.