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Cable Audiences Grow As Broadcast Shrinks

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November 13th, 2008

While the prime-time ratings woe for the major English broadcasters continues this season, many cable networks have seen strong gains in prime-time. Some of these gains, for the news channels, can be attributed to the election season and the financial crisis, but most are due to the long term trend of viewers shifting from broadcast to cable. Unlike the double digit audience losses for most of the big broadcasters, big general interest cable networks like TBS and USA have shown gains for the year over year period. TNT, another big general interest cable network, is flat for the year.

Other, more focused cable networks like SciFi, Hallmark, History Channel and Spike have shown single digit audience year over year gains. Not all the top cable networks have benefited this year though. Disney channel, one of the largest, is down over 11% in year to year comparisons. So while the news for broadcast prime-time is universally poor, cable networks have both winners and loser this season. 

Network 2008 Average Viewers Live+SD (million) 2007 Average Viewers Live+SD (million) 2008 vs. 2007 Change
Fox News 2.062 1.478 39.5%
Nick at Nite 1.696 1.285 32.0%
ESPN 1.940 1.756 10.5%
TBS 1.959 1.787 9.6%
SCIFI 1.216 1.124 8.2%
Hallmark 1.274 1.181 7.9%
History 1.145 1.063 7.7%
USA 2.735 2.599 5.2%
SPIKE 1.261 1.199 5.2%
AMC 1.078 1.033 4.4%
TNT 2.206 2.203 0.1%
HGTV 1.095 1.095 0.0%
A&E 1.311 1.323 -0.9%
FX 1.207 1.224 -1.4%
Cartoon 1.309 1.335 -1.9%
Lifetime 1.423 1.456 -2.3%
Discovery 1.168 1.271 -8.1%
Disney 2.363 2.674 -11.6%

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Our table shows the year to date (as opposed to season to date in the broadcast post linked above) prime-time audience changes for some top cable networks from 12/31/07-11/9/08 vs. 1/1/07-11/11-07. We see this data for only the top 25 cable networks, and only 23 were on both the 2007 and 2008 list.

CNN (2008 avg. 1.329 million) and ABC Family (2008 avg. 1.170 million) were in the 2008 top 25, but not the 2007 top 25. CourtTV (now TruTV) (2007 avg. 1.165) and MTV (2007 avg. 0.941 million) were in the 2007 top 25 but not the 2008.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2008 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

 
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