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Summer Sundays sizzle at Lifetime

The expected summer onslaught of Cartoon Network didn't materialize, leaving Lifetime Television to remain the top-ranked cable network in prime time.

Lifetime boosted its Nielsen household ratings 22%, to a 2.2, in August, a month when only three of the top 10 networks managed to squeeze out any gain at all.

Cartoon Network tends to surge when the kids are out of school but didn't this August. Its ratings fell 10%, to a 1.8, still good enough to tie for second place with TBS Superstation (off 10%) and USA Network (off 5%).

Although Lifetime gets most of its viewership from movies, such series as Any Day Now
provide a strong boost.

"The Sunday-night series have stayed well above a 2 all summer long, which gives us a powerhouse night," said Lifetime Senior Vice President of Research Tim Brooks.

The most notable loser was TNT, which was down 12% from last summer, including one week when it scored a measly 1.3. The network typically runs 1.8-2.0.

Turner Vice President of Audience Development Bob Sieber said that the network is in part suffering from the cancellation of WCW wrestling, which got fat ratings despite lagging rival World Wrestling Federation.

Sieber said he's startled at how poorly the broadcast networks fared. CBS, of course, was Survivor-free, and down 19% last month. ABC fell 9% in August and was off 15% for the whole summer. The Big Four dropped 10% while basic cable was up an average of 8%.

"Last summer, both broadcast and basic cable saw gains," Sieber said. "But for the four broadcast nets, it now seems like last summer did not exist."