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Cable ratings: Lifetime gets younger, E! and History hot, Hallmark and CNN not

March 24, 2010 |  4:33 pm

Looks like Lifetime is getting younger.

The cable network saw its prime-time audience drop 6% in the first quarter of 2010, compared to the same time a year ago. While that's bad news, the good news is that most of the decline appears to be among adults over the age of 60. Among adults 18-49, Lifetime was up 5%, and with adults 18-34 it was up 18%. The channel also made a slight gain with adults 25-54. Lifetime's median viewer age dropped 2 years and three months to a little over 47, compared to first quarter of 2009.

LIFETIME Now, before we start getting e-mails complaining about suggesting that somehow older viewers don't matter, that is not what we're saying. It's just that advertisers pay a premium for younger viewers. There is a theory that though older people have more money, they are also more set in their ways when it comes to buying things. Younger viewers, the thinking goes, are more likely to be swayed by a commercial. So take it as a compliment that advertisers don't see folks over the ago of 60 as being gullible. For what it's worth, I'm still in the 18-49 demographic and I'm pretty consistent with my toothpaste, but I do experiment with shampoo.

The Lifetime numbers are only one of many interesting things in a report from Turner Broadcasting on first-quarter television ratings. Among the networks making big gains were the Fox Soccer Channel, up 75%, and ID, which is Discovery's recently rebranded crime channel. Its audience grew almost 60%. Of course, gains that big mean that both channels have small ratings and distribution and hence even a minuscule improvement in audience results in a large percentage gain. 

Among the bigger networks, History Channel had a strong three months. Its audience grew 14% and it was up 26% with adults 18-34. Before you smile to yourself thinking that kids are getting into history, keep in mind that three of the network's top shows are about pawn shops, lumberjacks and people who go antiquing. In other words, a lot of history is now history at the History Channel.

Comcast's E! also delivered. Its audience grew by 25%  and thank-you flowers are no doubt on the way to the Kardashian girls. E! was also up 24% with adults 18-49 and 30% in the 18-34 category.

Enduring a tough three months was Turner's CNN, off 39% in viewers, and the Hallmark Channel, which saw its audience drop 34%. Turner's other networks -- including TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network -- also experienced declines.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Camryn Manheim in Lifetime's "The Pregnancy Pact." Credit: Lifetime.