50 Top Basic Cable Channels of 2015: From ESPN to H2

TheWrap Rewind 2015: The former Inspiration Network and CNBC had best primetime total viewer growth year over year; truTV, not so much

Cord-cutters are threatening cable like never before, and when subscribers head for the hills — so do their eyeballs.

No one knows about subscriber loss quite like ESPN — well, except for The Weather Channel — and the Disney-owned cable network is beginning to feel the effects on its viewership as well. While ESPN still pretty comfortably topped 2015 across basic cable primetime in both the key 18-49 demographic and among total viewers, it slid 9 percent and 8 percent in those metrics, respectively, from 2014.

Below, TheWrap has ranked the Top 50 basic cable channels for calendar 2015 by total viewers, to avoid any of that pesky demographic selection stuff.

Some highlights (and, we suppose, a few lowlights): This year, USA dropped 16 percent, landing behind TBS and settling for third place. It wasn’t all good news for Turner Broadcasting across-the-board, however, as sister channel TNT fell all the way to sixth, and truTV dropped 26 percent year over year — marking the worst slide on a percentage basis across the entire Top 50 basic cable channels. Thank goodness for offsetting CNN growth, which jumped 28 percent, one year ahead of the actual election year.

The biggest growers in our Top 50 are CNBC and INSP (formerly the Inspiration Network), both up 39 percent in total viewers from 2014. All averages below are from Dec. 29, 2014 to Nov. 29, 2015, allowing for the inclusion of full seven-day delayed viewing.

History’s H2 just barely made its way on our list at No. 50, which, if this was the NFL Draft, would make it “Mr. Irrelevant” in our truncated study.

Here are the Top 50 basic cable channels of 2015, ranked by their seven-day averages in primetime total viewers:

  1. ESPN: 2.022 million
  2. TBS: 1.876 million
  3. USA: 1.850 million
  4. Disney: 1.784 million
  5. Fox News: 1.775 million
  6. TNT: 1.766 million
  7. Discovery: 1.549 million
  8. History: 1.536 million
  9. HGTV: 1.498 million
  10. AMC: 1.443 million
  11. Adult Swim: 1.307 million
  12. FX: 1.251 million
  13. Food Network: 1.129 million
  14. Lifetime: 1.065 million
  15. Nick at Nite: 1.027 million
  16. Syfy: 1.006 million
  17. ABC Family: 985,000
  18. A&E: 959,000
  19. TLC: 944,000
  20. ID: 891,000
  21. Hallmark: 881,000
  22. Bravo: 872,000
  23. Spike: 790,000
  24. CNN: 672,000
  25. Animal Planet: 652,000
  26. Disney Junior: 644,000
  27. VH1: 642,000
  28. TV Land: 608,000
  29. MTV: 606,000
  30. BET: 598,000
  31. MSNBC: 576,000
  32. Comedy Central: 569,000
  33. E!: 568,000
  34. National Geographic Channel: 544,000* (rounded tie)
  35. OWN: 544,000* (rounded tie)
  36. WETV: 523,000
  37. truTV: 476,000
  38. Lifetime Movie Network 462,000
  39. Nick Jr.: 440,000
  40. Travel: 438,000
  41. GSN: 434,000
  42. ESPN2: 432,000
  43. FXX: 413,000
  44. Hallmark Movies: 410,000
  45. FS1: 406,000
  46. INSP: 389,000
  47. NBCSN: 381,000
  48. CNBC: 375,000
  49. Disney XD: 370,000
  50. H2: 348,000

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