General Interest, Non-News Cable Nets See Q2 Viewing Declines, 3 Discovery Nets See Increase

Entertainment, sports and general interest cable networks took on major hits in the second quarter of the year compared to the first quarter, as COVID-19 was involved in massive at-home viewing disruptions.

Only two of those networks posted more than 1 million Nielsen-measured prime-time viewers versus six networks in the first quarter. ESPN took on the biggest decline in prime-time viewing.

The big sports networks plummeted by more than half -- to 691,000 viewers versus 1.47 million in the first three months of 2020, according to Nielsen’s live program-plus-same day time-shifted viewing.

At the same time, TNT dipped lower by 25% to 745,000 viewers from 997,000 in the first quarter.

Both TNT and ESPN suffered due to postponement and cancellation of major sports TV franchises.



Three mainstream, broad-based networks -- Discovery Channel, USA Network, and A&E Network -- lost ground. 

Discovery has sunk 14% (835,000 from 968,000), while USA Network is down 4% (793,000 from 823,000), A&E has lost 22% (827,000 from 1.06 million), Hallmark Channel has given up 12% (898,000 from 1.02 million) and History has fallen 6% (954,000 from 1.02 million).

At the same time, three Discovery Inc.-owned networks rose -- Home & Garden TV, TLC and Food Network posted gains. 

HGTV rose 9% to 1.27 million prime-time viewers (from 1.15 million), ascending to become the top non-cable news network overall. TLC grew to 10% to 1.20 million from 1.08 million, and Food Network was up 3% to 843,000 from 818,000.

The top three overall cable networks in the second quarter were the three big news channels: Fox News Channel (3.57 million), MSNBC (2.0 million), and CNN (1.8 million).

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