America’s cable networks are this year attracting higher ratings than their broadcast counterparts - for the first time ever.

As the end of 2002 nears, the ad-funded cable sector has increased its overall audience share from 45% last year to 48% – overtaking the seven broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, UPN, WB and Pax), whose aggregated share has dipped from 49% to 45%.

The sector’s success is attributed to the shift to cable and away from broadcast of content such as sports, news and movies. Plus an improvement in the quality of cable programming.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the top cable network of 2002 looks set to be Lifetime, which is expected to increase total ratings by 11% to 2.2 million, followed by Nickelodeon, TNT, USA and TBS.

In the all-important category of 18–49-year-olds, TNT is currently on top with ratings of 991,000 in the year to date, though USA is not far behind on 990,000. Other big winners in this sector include MTV, viewers of which surged 88% to 616,000.

Data sourced from: MediaWeek (US); additional content by WARC staff