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TNT Tops Cable in 1Q

Turner Network Television, USA Network, Nick at Nite and Disney Channel earned the most viewers on cable during the first quarter of 2005, averaging 2.6 million, 2.4 million, 2 million and 1.92 million viewers in prime time, respectively.

The most viewed programs for the quarter were: Jan. 2’s Cowboys/Giants game on ESPN (8.64 million viewers between 8:30 and 11:30 p.m.), Feb. 20’s East vs. West game on TNT (8.08 million total viewers between 8:56 and 11:33 p.m.), Dec. 31’s Florida/Miami game on ESPN (6.63 million total viewers between 7:30 and 11:11 p.m.), Feb. 2’s State of the Union analysis on Fox News (6.35 million total viewers between 1-:04 and 10:12 p.m.) and March 20’s Comedy Central Roast of Jeff Foxworthy (6.20 million total viewers between 10 and 11:30).

Not surprisingly, the biggest gainers year-over-year in prime, percentage-wise, were networks with small audiences to begin with, though the gains were impressive nonetheless. Noggin/The N, were up 123% from 57,000 viewers to 127,000, and Turner South was up 120% from 46,000 to 101,000 viewers.

The Discovery networks continued to show viewership declines. Discovery channel was down 26% (1.37 to 1.01 million viewers in prime); TLC was down 34% (1.18 million to 775,000 viewers in prime); and Animal Planet was down 12% (676,000 to 594,000 viewers in prime).

One bright spot at Discovery: Discovery Health was up 43%, from 159,000 to 228,000 viewers.

Notable gains came from Spike – up 44% year-to-year from 1.08 million to 1.56 million total viewers in prime; Nat Geo – up 67% from 162,000 to 270,000 total viewers; Comedy Central – up 19% from 875,000 to 1.04 million total viewers; and Cartoon Network – up 17% from 1.59 million to 1.85 million total viewers in prime.

Cartoon also set a personal best for delivery of 18-24 (278,000) and 18-34 (559,000) viewers for its late night block, Adult Swim, which will be spun off as a separate Nielsen ratings track later this month.

On the cable news front, Fox News was up 15% year-to-year in the first quarter, from 1.39 million to 1.6 million viewers in prime; CNN was stable at 808,000 and MSNBC was down 8% from 333,000 to 308,000 viewers in prime.

Headline News, which launched a new prime time block, Headline Prime, in March, was up 23% from 204,000 to 250,000 viewers in prime – largely as a result of Nancy Grace, which in its first month on the air (March, 2005) averaged 518,000 total viewers and set a record for the network in that time period.

The Headline Prime block (7-10 p.m.) has increased Headline News’ viewership 66% year over year in its time period since its launch.