Good Solid Cable Ratings: Nothing Greedy About That

Good cable programming gets through to the right viewers usually the first time around -- whether it's Barry Bonds tattooing a record-breaking home run, or there's a reality show about a Los Angeles tattoo parlor owner.


Bonds' record-breaking home run earned that game a 1.1 rating or 995,000 households. This gave ESPN2 a 57% improvement in ratings versus a typical Major League Baseball game a year ago on the network, with a 0.7 rating and 652,000 household rating average.

Interestingly, that wasn't the highest-rated Bonds game over the last three recent telecasts following his home run chase. His three-game household rating average was 1.016 million.

TLC brought some good news for its Discovery Networks group with the show "L.A. Ink," which earned even better numbers as cable's No. 1 show on Tuesday night with a 1.7 rating/5 share among 18-49 viewers and 2.9 million viewers overall. This was the best showing for a TLC show since the channel scored high for "What Not To Wear" four years ago.



Mind you, neither of these shows had the biggest ratings for cable networks this summer. Series like TNT's "The Closer" and Lifetime's "Army Wives" are in a higher rating altitude.

There is a tendency to overlook steady cable programming earners -- most of which offer up lots of reruns. (Not so much with live sporting events, though). But that's how the cable programming-ad model is built -- take it or leave it.

In the future we might need to discount this factor. Nielsen's new audience data might reflect badly on some of cable networks' all-important re-airings of their original shows. In comparison, new Nielsen viewer data could show higher "unduplicated" audiences of broadcast network shows.

Cable network executives are already grumbling about the prospect of this activity. Weren't those the same executives who were grumbling over commercial rating guarantees that advertisers demanded? Weren't those the same executives grumbling over a proposed eBay auction system that many advertisers want?

Cable executives should be happy for their good summer ratings, and (probably against all business precepts) a bit less greedy -- all while riding out sweaty 90 degree-plus August New York City temperatures.

That's a lot to ask. But it would make a good summer reality financial show on CNBC or Mr. Murdoch's new Fox Business Network. The winner of "The Need, Less Greed, and More Heat" show would be the most honest, and eventually out-of-work, cable network executive.

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