A&E Networks posted a standout second quarter as prime-time ratings rose at its three flagship networks, thanks to new hits and higher ratings for returning series. Helped by the debut of the “The Client List,” Lifetime average ratings rose 12% in the 18-to-49 demo, while History and A&E also saw increases and either came close to, or leapfrogged, other traditional strog performers.
No wonder Comcast is collecting an impressive sum by selling its A&E interests.
History posted a 4% jump in key-demo ratings using “live-plus-seven” numbers as “Swamp People” returned with a strong performance and “Cajun Pawn Stars” and “Mountain Men” premiered. The “Hatfields & McCoys” mini-series also had huge ratings.
History again finished as the third highest-rated network behind TNT and USA with its 18-to-49 demo average of nearly 1.6 million. But, it came within a speck of passing USA for second, trailing by less than 1%. Last year, it trailed USA by 15%.
The A&E network’s returning “Storage Wars” and new “Duck Dynasty” helped it deliver a 4% bump, while it passed Discovery for 6th place in the quarter.
Discovery and TLC, which did not launch any significant new shows, both saw ratings fall 13%, though sister channels Animal Planet (up 12%), ID (30%) and even the much-maligned OWN (9%) had increases.
Overall, ad-supported cable fell 1% in the April-June quartrer. Some argue comparing ratings in cable by using the same quarters year-over-year can offer a skewed reflection of a network’s strength since schedules vary so much and hit shows can run in different quarters each year.
The second-quarter leaders TNT and USA had 10% and 9% declines, respectively, though both have originals in the current quarter they expect to provide significant growth.
TBS, the fourth highest-rated network among 18-to-49 year-olds, continued its torrid growth, up 28%, as the syndicated “Big Bang Theory” remains a network-changer.
USA sister network Syfy had a strong quarter with 10% growth as unscripted series “Total Blackout,” a game show in the dark, proved to be a success. Syfy finished as the 11th highest-rated network. A third NBCUniversal network, Bravo, had flat ratings in the quarter.
At FX, which had a slight 2% drop, returning “Justified” posted increased ratings, but the addition of “The Ultimate Fighter” franchise may have underperformed expectations. FX remained as the fifth highest-rated network.
Save TBS and VH1 (up 24%), the Food Network had the highest growth with a 15% increase in the quarter as it surged into the top 10.
At Viacom, where VH1 was a bright spot, Comedy Central was down 13%, while MTV (which targets a younger audience than 18 to 49) and Spike (which lost originals of “The Ultimate Fighter”) had 18% and 11% declines, respectively.
Cable, however, is a cyclical business, so for networks moving in different directions, it may never be as good as it seems or as bad. At least, those struggling want to believe that.