Cable Ad Revenue up 4% for Top 20 Channels in 2006

TNT, TBS, CNN Down; Cartoon and Food Network Big Winners

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The top 20 cable channels took in an additional half billion dollars in ad revenue last year, totaling almost $12.5 billion, up 4% from the year before, according to figures from TNS Media Intelligence. The top four stayed the same -- ESPN, TNT, MTV and Nickelodeon retained their spots as the top earners.
Of the top 20 cable channels, ESPN earned the most ad revenue last year with $1.52 billion.
Of the top 20 cable channels, ESPN earned the most ad revenue last year with $1.52 billion.

ESPN, the leader, took in $1.52 billion, up from $1.44 billion, while No. 2 cable channel TNT took in a little less money last year than in 2005 -- $1.05 billion vs. $1.15 billion.

Time Warner: 4 in top 10
Time Warner has four cable channels in the top 20. TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network and CNN. Only Cartoon Network took in more ad revenue than last year. Ad revenue at CNN fell year-on-year, down $10 million to $378 million, while Cartoon Network rose dramatically, adding more than $90 million to its ad revenue haul of $398 million. TBS also took in less revenue, $753 million vs. $785 million the year before. The network slipped from the sixth spot in '05 to seventh last year.

Despite talk that Viacom is in danger of losing its grasp on its youthful viewers, the company's cable channels, which includes Nickelodeon, put in a good performance overall last year. MTV, Comedy Central, VH-1 and Spike all increased ad revenue last year. Surprisingly, the most dramatic rise was seen at BET, which rose from $357 million in 2005 to $401 million last year.

Lifetime, Discovery tumble
Lifetime took a tumble from fifth place on the chart to sixth, down from $828 million to $768.7 million. Discovery Channel also fell slightly year-on-year, perhaps reflecting lower ratings due to a programming lineup that was heavy on reality shows, something the network is changing this year with a return to science and adventure programming. The network brought in $478.7 million, down from $506 million the year before.

Scripps' two networks did well: Food Network ad revenue leapt by $84 million to $388 million thanks to the popularity of fresh faces Rachel Ray and Giada De Laurentiis, who hosted segments on NBC's "Today Show," among others, while HGTV also saw an increase in revenue.

Fox News Channel broke the half-billion dollar mark last year, rising to $532 million and leapt up the chart by two positions to No. 9.
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