Saturday’s presentations by nine of cable’s newer nets capped a strong showing earlier that underscored cable’s continued and steady growth in both consumer acceptance and critical acclaim. Outside the tour, the week produced news that cable enjoyed a breakthrough year in Emmy nominations, and additional reports about cable rating increases against the competition.
"Cable is gaining because cable is offering consumers what they want - quality, diversity, innovation, choice," said David Beckwith, NCTA Vice President for Communications. "Viewers are showing a strong preference for cable’s high quality niche programming over the lowest common denominator approach taken by broadcasters."
Cable showcased a strong lineup of talent at individual sessions spanning the diverse range of interests that have become cable’s hallmark. Among well-known personalities who answered critics’ questions this week were Ben Affleck, Alan Alda, Sandra Bernhard, Matt Damon, Shannen Doherty, Bridget Fonda, Tom Hanks, Woody Harrelson, Selma Hayek, Ice-T, Naomi Judd, Toby Keith, Laura Linney, Debbie Reynolds, and Britney Spears. A number of cable programming executives also answered questions, including Jamie Kellner and Walter Isaacson of Turner/CNN.
The array of comedy and drama series, original movies, talk shows and other programming showcased during the week demonstrate cable's increasingly-central role in addressing complex issues of societal concern. During a discussion of Showtime's original movie, Things Behind The Sun, a drama centered around two people scarred by adolescent rape, actor Eric Stoltz encapsulated the situation this way: "This film could never be done on a broadcast network. It's not going to come out in 3,000 theaters. That's the beauty of Showtime and the cable venue, because this film needs to be seen. We all felt it should be seen."
Cable’s progress was underscored by events outside the TCA Tour. When Emmy nominations were announced this week, cable networks received a record number of nominations (159) and more cable networks received nominations than ever before (20). And, for the second time, a cable network - Home Box Office - dominated the process, capturing more nominations than any other network. Cable’s progress in several key categories was remarkable; in original movies, for example, cable networks received all five nominations.
Recent Nielsen Media Research numbers confirm a longtime trend: cable’s delivery, ratings and share continue to grow, while broadcaster numbers continue to drop. Cable continues its inexorable march to a clear majority of viewers.
In the most recent week measured (July 2-8, 2001), Nielsen reported that basic cable’s audience share grew 11.7 percent over the same week a year earlier, to a record 48.6 share (compared with 43.5 in 2000). Cable also scored a 10 percent gain in primetime ratings, from 22.9 to 25.2.
By contrast, the broadcast networks received their lowest ratings in history during the same period. The seven broadcast networks’ weighted share dropped 12.6 percent to a 40.4 in the most recent week, and broadcasters’ primetime ratings were down 14.3 percent to a 20.8 cumulative primetime rating.
NCTA is the principal trade association of the cable industry in the United States, representing cable operators serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s cable television households. It also represents more than 100 cable program networks as well as equipment suppliers and providers of other services to the cable industry. (www.ncta.com)