Basic cable's prime-time ratings grew 10% in the second quarter, and 14% in June, vs. 3% and 6% drops, respectively, for the Big 3 networks. BIG 3 TV NETWORKS LOSE RATINGS TO CABLE GROWTH

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Prime-time ratings for the Big 3 TV networks, which rose for the first time in more than a decade during the 1993-94 TV season, are back on the down trend.

Though the Big 3's combined rating rose 2% to a 37.4 during the official Nielsen season, which ended April 17, the Big 3 have shown a consistent decline ever since. The data suggest the Big 3's 1993-94 season surge might have been a fluke, buoyed by unusually strong Winter Olympics ratings on CBS in February.

Indeed, during April, May and June, the Big 3's combined rating fell 3% from the previous season to a 31.6, according to a Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau analysis of data from Nielsen Media Research. During the same period, basic cable networks were up 10% to a 14.4 combined rating.

"Cable's expanding viewership is consistent with a decadelong growth trend that was briefly interrupted earlier this year by two aberrant factors-the Winter Olympics and consumer confusion caused by the channel position changes dictated by re-regulation and its retransmission consent/must-carry provisions," said Bob Alter, CAB vice chairman and acting president. "These latest data prove that basic cable audience growth has resumed its accelerated momentum and is on track to rise steadily throughout the rest of the year."

Last fall, cable TV operators had to implement the so-called retransmission consent provisions of the recent cable law, which caused many cable TV networks to move around on the dial. Cable industry executives said that was a reason for basic cable's ratings decline during the 1993-94 season, and the new data seem to support that.

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