TV Upfront

Cable Network Scorecard: What to Watch for Among Major Players

Who's on the Rise, and Who's on the Decline

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Some in the cable sector are seeing disheartening numbers just as the upfront is about to get under way. Cable TV ratings have been uncharacteristically weak at several top-tier networks. Media analysts and executives attribute the declines to everything from stagnant growth in pay-TV subscribers and cord-cutting, to errors in Nielsen's audience measurements and unseasonably warm weather that takes TV viewers outdoors.

Here's a look at those going up and those going down, as of April 29:

In Decline


What's Happening: The NBA isn't enough to curtail TNT's massive ratings plunge. TNT has put together a rather robust summer lineup that 's jam-packed with the network's biggest slate of original programming in the hopes of stopping these declines.

Top Shows: NBA, "The Closer," "Rizzoli & Isles"


What's Happening: "SpongeBob," at 13 years old, is older than most of Nickelodeon's audience. Realizing it's in desperate need of some newness, Nickelodeon announced 650 new episodes of programming at its upfront event in March.

Top Shows: "Victorious," "SpongeBob SquarePants," "iCarly"


What's Happening: The fist-pumping fad may have run its course for MTV , as the beaches of the "Jersey Shore" start to lose their luster. The hope is that Snooki's baby bump will help revive interest.

Top Show: "Jersey Shore"


What's Happening: ESPN took a hit due to the shortened NBA season and a fumble in its NFL audience.


What's Happening: Maybe there really are only so many times you can watch "NCIS" and "Law & Order" reruns.

Top Shows: "NCIS," "Law & Order: SVU," "Royal Pains," "White Collar," "Burn Notice," "Fairly Legal"

Source: Nielsen, SNL Kagan

Up next: Whose fortunes are improving?

On the Rise

Investigation Discovery

What's Happening: Investigation Discovery is bringing titillating thrillers and mysteries to the afternoon with a daytime, soap opera-like block of programming.

Top Shows: "Sins & Secrets," "I (Almost) Got Away With It"


What's Happening: AMC's massive ratings surge could be at risk, as Dish Network threatens to remove the channel when its deal expires in June.

Top Shows: "The Walking Dead," "Mad Men," "The Killing"

Discovery Channel

What's Happening: Discovery Channel has struck gold with two of its reality series, "Gold Rush" and "Bering Sea Gold." The latter was the highest-rated series premiere in the network's history.

Top Shows: "Frozen Planet," "Gold Rush," "Bering Sea Gold"


What's Happening: Nerdy comedy helped TBS unseat USA as the No. 1 cable network for adults 18 to 49 in prime-time in the first quarter.

Top Shows: "The Big Bang Theory," "Conan"

Food Network

What's Happening: Pitting stars such as Coolio and Lou Diamond Phillips against each other in a cooking challenge was a winning recipe for Food Network. "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off" made January the highest-rated, most-watched month in the network's history.

Top Shows: "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off"


What's Happening: Once called "the Hitler channel," History's concerted move away from, well, history, into reality fare has made it one of the most-watched networks on cable.

Top Shows: "Swamp People," "Pawn Star," "American Pickers"

Source: Nielsen, SNL Kagan

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