With USA staying on top and other nets almost staying the same as last year, basic cable ratings for ’12 in prime nearly mirrored ’11. For the 7th straight year, USA’s the most-watched ad-supported cable net among total viewers. It’s also #1 in P25-54 for the 7th year in a row.
With popular series like "Modern Family" coming in fall ’13, USA expects to maintain its lead next year, Ted Linhart, svp, research, said in an interview. He credited this year’s ratings win to the combination of original series, acquired series and the WWE. "There are more similarities than differences" when comparing this year’s rating with last year’s, he said. Specifically, crime series like "Burn Notice," "Covert Affairs" and "White Collar" and acquired series like "NCIS" had a strong run this year, he noted.
When it comes to cable programming trends this year, Linhart said "some shows that are particularly graphic do well," citing AMC‘s "Walking Dead." Additionally, certain big reality shows have fallen down a lot. TVE has become big this year. However, measurement isn’t keeping up with technology, Linhart said. Just like last year, Disney and ESPN took the #2 and #3 spots in prime total viewers.
The exceptions in the ratings pyramid this year are History, which moved up to #4 from #5, and TNT, moving to #5 from #4. Scoring its best year ever, History is set to finish the year as the #1 non-fiction entertainment net in key demos. Its 1st scripted miniseries, "Hatfields & McCoys," hit record ratings during the premiere week.
TNT has 5 shows—"The Closer," "Rizzoli & Isles," "Major Crimes," "Perception" and "Dallas"—among basic cable’s top 10 original series for the year-to-date. Compared to broadcast nets, cable’s share on the top rankings list continued to increase, Jack Wakshalg, chief research officer at Turner, told us. In the last quarter, broadcast is "losing heavily" even with a ratings boost from the London Olympics, he noted.
For children’s programming, Disney topped Nickelodeon‘s 17-year record in total day to become #1 among 2-11. It’s #1 for the 2nd straight year among 6-11. Part of the success can be attributed to "creatively and strategically" scheduling and promoting series like "Phineas and Ferb," "Gravity Falls," "Austin & Ally," "Good Luck Charlie," "Shake it Up" and the most recent "Dog with a Blog," said Paul DeBenedittis, svp, programming and scheduling for Disney. "Kids respond to smart, relevant stories about characters they want as their best friends or characters they aspire to be," he said. "We’ve seen comedy deliver for us across all of our brands."
In addition, a few serialized dramas or "dramedies" have worked in the kids market this year, "so I’m interested in those genres as we look to create a diversified offering,” DeBenedittis said. The net has also explored a few different alternative content genres like reality and game shows, which were well received by the audience, he noted. In 2012, the net "stayed focused on everything that’s core to Disney—great stories, characters and talent…" he said.
Other highlights of the rankings this year: Cartoon had its most-watched year in its 20-year history; A&E finished the year with the most-watched year ever across all demos; Comedy Central fell out of the top 20 list.

ED NOTE: This article originally appeared in CableFAX Daily. Go here to subscribe.

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