Starting the New Year Off Strong

In January, die-hard and casual sports fans f locked to pigskin programming on ESPN. The first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship, in which Ohio State defeated Oregon on Jan. 12, wasn’t just the highest-rated and most-watched program of the month (tallying 33.4 million viewers 2-plus and an 11.1 rating among viewers 18-49) — it was the No. 1 telecast in the history of cable television, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings. Needless to say, ESPN was the top-rated cable network in primetime this past month, and it was No. 1 by a good margin.

That said, a handful of other cable networks showed positive results in primetime viewership. Discovery Channel improved its averages in key demos, thanks to a great month from primetime powerhouse Gold Rush. Lifetime made a move into the top 10 among persons 18-49, thanks to the Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown-focused biopic Whitney, one of the network’s highest-rated movies in quite some time. And Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which continues to attract a massive 18-49 following, was the highest-rated cable entertainment series of the month. The graph below shows which cable networks performed well enough to make it into January’s top 10 networks.