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DEC
12
1 years

Pigskins, Zombies and Feuding Neighbors: The Year in Basic Cable Ratings

College and NFL football, "The Walking Dead" and "Hatfields and McCoys" drove the biggest numbers in 2012, while USA maintains its advantage among total viewers and adults 18-49 despite dips.

Walking Dead College football Hatfields and McCoys - H 2012
Frank Ockenfels/AMC; Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images; Kevin Lynch/History Channel

With 2012 drawing to a close, final TV ratings among basic cable networks are in very much the same shape as they were this time last year, though History, TBS, Fox News and the NFL Network were among those showing noticeable growth.

The ratings, via Nielsen, account for Live+7 Day for the bulk of the year with the available Live+Same Day measured since Nov. 26.

Thanks in no small part to record-breaking returns for miniseries Hatfields & McCoys -- 17.1 million, 16.4 million and 17.9 million viewers for each respective installment -- History moved up in total viewers (9 percent) to an average 2.192 million in primetime. That pushed History to the No. 4 spot, besting TNT. The network was unmoved in the adults 18-49.

Perennial winner USA continued to top in both total viewers and the key adults demographic for the seventh year in a row, though it did suffer double-digit losses in primetime, falling 10 percent in P2+ to 2.973 million viewers and 13 percent in adults 18-49 to 1.092 million. It had no programs in the top 50 by either measure.

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TBS made a huge power play, eclipsing sister net TNT in the adults 18-49 demographic. The Turner-owned network jumped 20 percent in the key demo to a primetime average of 1.061 million. It grew even more in total viewers -- 23 percent to 1.963 million -- though not enough to fight with TNT's fifth place showing of 2.176 million viewers in primetime.

AMC continues to linger outside the top 15, despite the runaway success of The Walking Dead. That could change next year when the network adds at least one more night (Thursday) of original programming. The network did grow, moving one percent in total viewers and 11 percent in the demo. The Walking Dead accounts for seven of the top 10 basic cable demo performers of the year, with ESPN's BCS Championship Game and Monday Night Football the only others ranking that high.

Aside from TBS, Fox News was the biggest grower in primetime's top 10. It jumped 10 percent in total viewers for one of its best years ever (an average 2.034 million viewers).

Elsewhere in total primetime viewership, MSNBC, VH1, Investigation Discovery and the NFL Network all made substantial jumps. With Thursday Night Football in its corner, NFL was up 48 percent from last year to 369,000 night viewers. And despite getting slammed in many a headline, CNN only took a 4 percent hit.

The NFL made a similarly strong move in the key demo (48 percent to 129,000 viewers 18-49), while Lifetime and VH1 all had double-digit jumps. Over its freshman year, OWN was also up 28 percent. One of the year's bigger primetime losers, MTV, lost 25 percent of its adults 18-49 haul from 2011.

For top 20 primetime showings among P2+ and adults 18-49, see the below charts:

Persons 2+ (000)

Network: 2012, 2011, (Net Change, Change %)

1- USA: 2973    3293 (-320, -10%)
2 - Disney: 2437, 2692 (-255, -9%)
3 - ESPN: 2213, 2249 (-36, -2%)
4 - History: 2192, 2004 (188, 9%)
5 - TNT: 2176, 2284 (-108, -5%)
6 - Fox News: 2034,1841 (193, 10%)
7 - TBS: 1963, 1600 (363, 23%)
8 - A+E: 1633, 1565 (68, 4%)
9 - Adult Swim: 1448, 1478 (-30, -2%)
10 - FX: 1436, 1569 (-133, -8%)
11 - ABC Family: 1352, 1482 (-130, -9%)
12 - Syfy: 1337, 1381 (-44, -3%)
13 - Discovery: 1288, 1296 (-8, -1%)
14 - Food: 1235, 1193 (42, 4%)
15 - Lifetime: 1204, 1121     (83, 7%)
16 - AMC: 1199, 1188 (11, 1%)
17 - HGTV: 1185, 1211 (-26, -2%)
18 -TLC: 1089    1096 (-7, -1%)
19 - TRU: 1076, 1096 (-20, -2%)
20 - Nick at Nite: 1059, 1642 (-583, -36%)

Adults 18-49 (000)

Network: 2012, 2011, (Net Change, Change %)

1- USA: 1092, 1259 (-167, -13%)
2 - ESPN: 1062, 1062 (0, 0%)
3 - TBS: 1061, 882 (179, 20%)
4 - TNT: 909, 985 (-76, -8%)
5 - History: 899, 902 (-3, 0%)
6 - FX: 801, 875 (-74, -8%)
7 - A+E: 761, 760 (1, 0%)
8 - Adult Swim: 673, 700 (-27, -4%)
9 - Discovery: 662, 685 (-23, -3%)
10 - ABC Family: 649, 683 (-34, -5%)
11 - MTV: 586, 783 (-197, -25%)
12 - Syfy: 580, 594 (-14, -2%)
13 - Food: 570, 575 (-5, -1%)
14 - Bravo - 559, 593 (-34, -6%)
15 - Comedy Central - 542, 628 (-86, -6%)
16 - TRU - 532, 541 (-9, -2%)
17 - Lifetime: 531, 467 (64, 14%)
18 - AMC: 528, 475 (53, 11%)
19 - TLC: 505, 534 (-29, -5)
20: Disney: 471, 543 (-72, -13%)