Sports Rules In Q1 Primetime

ESPN scored a ratings touchdown during the first quarter of 2015 as its January coverage of the college-football playoff s helped the sports network to its second straight primetime quarterly ratings victory.

ESPN posted a 4% year-to-year increase in Q1, averaging 2.2 million viewers to finish as the most watched network during the period of Dec. 29, 2014 to March 29, according to Nielsen. TBS’s coverage of “March Madness” — aka the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship — helped the comedy-branded service finish second during the month with 2.06 million viewers, a slight increase of 1% over the same period last year.

Defending first-quarter 2014 champ USA Network finished third this year with 1.95 million viewers, down 18% from the same period last year; followed by Disney Channel, which posted a 12% decline to finish with 1.8 million viewers; and Fox News Channel, off by 5% to finish fifth with 1.75 million viewers.

AMC (1.68 million viewers, flat from last year); Discovery Channel (1.66 million, up 8%); TNT (1.63 million, down 13%; History (1.62 million, down 24%); and Nick at Nite (1.62 million, down 30%) rounded out the top 10.

Disney Channel squeaked out a quarterly ratings win over rival kids’ service Nickelodeon on a 24-hour basis, averaging 1.28 million viewers for the quarter compared to Nick’s 1.26 million. Adult Swim (1.19 million), Fox News (1.07 million) and USA (1.1 million) followed close behind.

TBS was the top choice of adults 18-49 for the quarter, while Nickelodeon was most watched among children 2 to 11.

Fox News continued to dominate the cable-news category, easily besting CNN’s 546,000 primetime viewers (up 8%) and MSNBC’s 545,000 viewers (down 22%). HLN was up 13%, generating 358,000 viewers.

AMC’s The Walking Dead devoured all series comers to finish as the most-watched cable program during the first quarter, according to Nielsen.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.