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Summer Bummer for Broadcast vs. Cable

Cable is on track to set a record this summer by racking up a primetime-ratings share of just over 60, nearly double that of broadcast, which is enduring its steepest decline ever for that period, according to Nielsen Media Research data released Wednesday.

As of Aug. 21, one week before the summer season officially ends, cable has a 61.0 primetime share, compared with broadcast’s 32.1, according to a Turner Entertainment analysis of Nielsen data.

By the time the summer is complete, Turner is projecting that cable will end up with a 61.1 share, compared with broadcast’s 32.

Broadcast’s showing marks an all-time low for the medium, with its largest decline since 1997, according to Jack Wakshlag, chief research officer for Turner Broadcasting System Inc. In fact, 2000 was the last summer when broadcast outdelivered cable in primetime, he added.

He pointed out that despite new leisure options like the Internet, TV viewing is stronger than ever, and growth is being led by ad-supported cable.

While primetime viewership is rather flat, audiences are watching more TV in other dayparts, like late-night and overnight, according to Wakshlag.

He also said big cable networks, such as Turner Network Television, are continuing to see ratings growth. Fueled by summer programming like The Closer, Wanted and Into the West, TNT is setting cable-ratings records for primetime for demographics such as 18-49, households and persons 2-plus. And this is the first summer that TNT is outdelivering two broadcast networks -- The WB Television Network and UPN -- in households and 2-plus.