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Cable now gets more viewers than broadcast TV

In another sign of the diminishing fortunes of over-the-air TV, basic cable television now draws a greater audience than terrestrial broadcasters.

Nielsen Media Research reports that ad-supported basic cable networks will reach 48 percent of viewers by January 2003, compared to the 45 percent share of the seven key broadcast channels.

The major networks, ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, failed to catch viewers’ imaginations during the latest November sweeps period, resulting in broadcast ratings dropping from last year's 49 percent.

Basic cable ratings for channels that rely on advertising -as opposed to subscriber-based channels such as HBO and Showtime -increased 4.5 percent, with audience share rising 3.7 percent, according to the Cable Advertising Bureau.

Among cable's top 10 channels this year are Lifetime, the TLC Network and the Sci-Fi Channel.

According to Nielsen Media Research's figures, only six percent of American viewers were watching cable in 1984 to 1985, compared with 74 percent who watched regular channels in primetime. By 1992, 23 percent of American viewers were glued to cable, a figure that has now more than doubled.

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