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May Performance Graph: Who's Up, Who's Down and Why?


Broadcast season finales, post-season NBA and an abundance of Mothers as we await the start of the summer. It must be May. Check out our look at network performance for our Top 30 networks and read our analysis below the info graphic! (Note: Graph based on the 30 networks that comprise CableU's "Top 30", chosen based on subscriber feedback of the most influential networks in U.S. cable.)

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Source: Nielsen SD ratings; Monday – Sunday 8-11PM.

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Most cablers stayed out of the way of May sweeps as the broadcast networks wrapped up their seasons with grand finales. There was a two-part plane crash on GREY’s, the DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES finally said their final good-bye, and by the end of the month America had a new IDOL and a new VOICE.


Sports dominated the cable landscape and our top 30 networks this May. NBA Play-offs on TNT pulled eight of the top ten and fifteen of the top twenty highest rated telecasts (SD HH ratings). Wrestling was also a big player; it was the best ratings producer for three networks – Spike, Syfy and USA.


Most of our analyzed nets had trouble improving over April. Only TNT with its NBA post-season was able to pull ahead. Not one other network came close to double-digit growth on either households or core demos over last month.

TBS led the year-over-year charge on the back of acquired sitcom THE BIG BANG THEORY. VH1, ID and FOOD improved their bottom-line household and demo ratings by 20% or more, as each offered a well-rounded line-up that featured a deep bench of programs. Other networks of note were ANIMAL PLANET, NAT GEO, OWN, SCIENCE and STYLE; each  was able to notch up its core demo ratings by 20% or more vs. last year.


Most cable programmers wait for the summer season to roll out their big guns, although some networks started early this year. TBS debuted MEN AT WORK and USA debuted COMMON LAW. The KARDASHIANS (E!) were back and so was the LONG ISLAND MEDIUM (TLC). PAWN was still running strong on History (STARS) and Tru (HARDCORE). But those were the exceptions.

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Cable celebrated Mothers Day by paying tribute as only cable can, with a niche program for every niche of mom  -- DANCE MOMS, MOM CAVES, PREGNANT IN HEELS, 16 & PREGNANT, OBESE & EXPECTING, SECRETLY PREGNANT, BIRTH MOMS, HALF TON MOMS, MY MOM IS OBSESSED, and PRANK MY MOM. Wives were recognized too -- MOB WIVES, ARMY WIVES, SISTER WIVES, REAL HOUSEWIVES (OC & NJ), WIFE SWAP and BASKETBALL WIVES.


The Summer of 2012 promises to be a good one to watch on the cable front. With even more hours and more nights of original programming the field is more competitive than ever. Many networks are stepping out of their comfort zone and into new programming genres, some trying to keep up with the pack and some attempting to stem the tide of erosion. From a ratings perspective, it is sure to be a good show.

Source: Nielsen SD ratings; Monday – Sunday 8-11PM.

Subscribe here for full access to Cable U graphs, analyses and industry knowledge  / Renew subscription