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.