ESPN, HGTV Gain Most Viewers Among Cable Networks

Third-Quarter Ratings Show Most Holding Steady

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NEW YORK ( -- After three quarters, the latest prime-time cable-ratings results are in, and execs at ESPN, HGTV, USA Network and Bravo have reason to smile. Folks at Spike, SciFi, Lifetime and TNT probably aren't feeling as happy.
ESPN posted the biggest gains year to date.
ESPN posted the biggest gains year to date.

Of all the major cable networks (those with more than 200,000 viewers in the 18- to 49-year-old demo), ESPN posted the biggest gains year to date -- up 20% in adults 18 to 49 to 797,000 viewers, fueled in part by an almost 30% rise in third-quarter ratings in adults 18 to 49.

More gains
After ESPN, there were several other major cable networks to experience gains in viewers 18 to 49. HGTV was up 17% to 390,000; E! Entertainment climbed 14% to 279,000; USA Network grew 16% to 1.159 million; Bravo was up 16% to 294,000 and Hallmark and Disney both jumped 16% to 235,000 and 486,000, respectively.

A&E had a strong third quarter, up 20% in viewers 18 to 49, and is up 12% in that demo year to date. And Bravo, fueled by its best-rated season of "Project Runway," was up 32% in adults 18 to 49 during the third quarter, which has helped its year-to-date ratings rise 16%.

To get a sense of what kind of numbers cable networks are posting in contrast to their competition both on the air and online, MediaWorks looked at the number of estimated total viewers in network's prime-time audience.

In terms of total viewers, cable networks range from a high (USA Network) of 2.6 million to a low (Fuse) of 24,000. A network that falls squarely into the midrange of total viewers (ranking 32 out of 64), VH1, is drawing 670,000.

Video programming
So how does cable compare to other places featuring video programming? The top 10 most-viewed channels on YouTube this week drew between 247,000 views for Lonelygirl15 to 712,000 for a user from Japan called blacksoulafroman. And the Big Four broadcast networks' total viewers ranged from 7.21 million (Fox) to 9.41 million (ABC) during the week of Sept. 11-17.

A few of the Viacom networks posted gains as well: VH1 is up 9% to 426,000 viewers 18 to 49 and Comedy Central is up 3% to 593,000 in the same demo, with an 8% lift in third quarter. Spike is still down on the year -- 20% to 672,000 viewers 18 to 49 (that figure doesn't break out men, its core demo). Nick at Nite is off 18% in adults 25 to 54 to 378,000.

SciFi and Lifetime are also down -- 16% in the 18 to 49 demo to 522,000 and 589,000, respectively. Year to date, TNT is down 10% in both 18-49 and 25-54 to 1.1 million and 1.2 million, respectively.

News was a mixed bag. CNBC was up 9% and MSNBC is flat in its most important demo: adults 25 to 54. In that same demo Fox News was down 30% and CNN down 24%.
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