TLC Drop Slams Discovery

The ratings collapse of Trading Spaces hit Discovery Communications Inc.’s third-quarter results hard.

Discovery Communications’ 51%-owner, Liberty Media, disclosed that the unit’s ad sales grew a mere 2% during the three months ended September. That’s largely because of the ratings burnout at TLC and its former hit home makeover show.

According to Nielsen Media, TLC’s total viewership dropped 32% during the quarter, from 1.2 million average viewers to 812,000. When Trading Spaces was regularly drawing 3 million-four million viewers, the network was a one of cable’s top 10.
Today it’s not in the top 20.

Liberty didn’t separate TLC’s performance from Discovery Channel or the 12 other U.S. Networks, but the network had been generating around $75 million in quarterly ad sales during 2003.

The good news is that the rest of DCI is taking up the slack. License fees from cable operators surged 48% during the quarter, so the company’s U.S. networks are up 18% for the quarter.