Cable Prime Time, News Nets Endure Viewer Drops

A number of big cable networks dipped in May viewership, just before starting their big original program summer debuts.

In prime time, ESPN sank 26% in overall viewership -- now averaging 1.56 million viewers; A&E Network slipped 3% to 1.2 million; HGTV lost 5% to 1 million; Discovery dropped 22% to 1 million; ABC Family was off 24% to 1 million viewers; Spike TV was 5% down to 886,000; Lifetime dropped 13% to 873,000; and Comedy Central went 24% lower to 744,000.

TNT, which took in some major double-digit-percentage declines for many months, cut back on some losses. It was down only 7% to 3.3 million average viewers in prime time, grabbing the top overall spot among all cable networks. TNT gained from many NBA end-of-the-season and playoff gains. USA, coming in second place in May, also lost ground -- 10% to its current 2.5 million.

Lower cable numbers this time of year can be attributed to end-of-the-season series finales and endings with broadcast network programming that wrap up in the month.

Some of the big gainers: TBS grew a massive 38% to 1.6 million; FX tacked on 5% to 1.3 million; Food Network added 19% to 1.1 million; Syfy grew 4% to 1.1 million; and NBC Sports Network took on 3% more to 858,000. It had the NHL playoffs to thank. Even the much-maligned OWN has something to talk about: an 8% gain, climbing to 281,000 viewers.

After soaring viewership over the last year and a half, History eased up a bit -- virtually even with a year ago at 1.9 million, down 1% from 1.974 million in May 2011.

Nickelodeon, as well as many other kids-targeted channels, continues to suffer. Nick was down 25% in total day average viewership to 1.5 million; Disney Channel lost 9% to 1.4 million; Adult Swim gave up 8% to 1.2 million; and Nick at Nite sank a big 47% to 745,000. However, Cartoon Network was up 4% to 1.07 million. Viacom’s Nicktoons grew 17% in prime time to 300,000 viewers.

Total day ratings witnessed lower viewership across the board for cable news networks: Fox News slipped 7% to land at 1 million; MSNBC gave back 19% to 386,000; CNN dropped much lower -- 52% -- to 289,000 viewers; and HLN went 15% lower to 234,000.

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1 comment about "Cable Prime Time, News Nets Endure Viewer Drops".
  1. Darrin Stephens from McMann & Tate , June 1, 2012 at 9:17 a.m.
    The drops in cable ratings can not be attributed to competition from broadcast network finales. It seems these comparisons are May 2012 versus May 2011. There were broadcast finales last year too.