* Nickelodeon ratings take a hit
* 25 Viacom channels dark on DirecTV for almost a week
* DirecTV says cancellations are low
By Liana B. Baker and Lisa Richwine
July 17 Kids and their parents shut out from
watching Viacom Inc's Nickelodeon on DirecTV
appear to be turning to The Disney Channel, which is enjoying a
ratings boost that could help the network even after a fee
Ratings for Viacom-owned Nickelodeon fell 20 percent last
week when two dozen Viacom networks came off the DirecTV
satellite service a week ago due to a fight over programming
fees, according to Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger.
The loss for Nickelodeon benefited the Disney channel, which
saw a 21 percent ratings jump for the same time period, Juenger
"The Disney Channel has picked up all of Nick's viewers and
then some," Juenger said in a research note.
The Disney Channel averaged 356,000 viewers ages 2 to 5 each
day from July 9 to 15, according to Nielsen data provided by
Horizon Media. That compares with 271,000 for Nickelodeon. A
Nickelodeon spokesman did not return a call for comment.
Disney sent out a statement trumpeting the Disney Channel's
first No. 1 weekly ranking among preschoolers based on total day
ratings. Programs such as "Doc McStuffins" and "Jake and the
Never Land Pirates" lifted viewership among two- to five-year
olds, the company said.
Juenger, the Bernstein research analyst, said he believed
the blackout was temporary but that children and their parents
may get hooked on Disney's programs in the meantime.
Twenty-five Viacom-owned channels -- including MTV, BET,
Comedy Central and Nickelodeon -- have been off air for
DirecTV's 20 million subscribers for nearly a week due to a
programming fee contract dispute.
DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer said on Tuesday that "some
customers have left us, but the numbers so far are very low."
DirecTV added the Disney Junior channel last week, a network
targeting the lucrative market segment for 2-to-7-year-olds that
competes with Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. DirecTV has also expanded
a PBS children's network called Sprout to more subscribers.
Over the past few weeks, disputes over fees have erupted in
the pay TV sector. DirecTV's main rival, Dish Network,
has dropped AMC Networks, while Time Warner Cable
is in a dispute with Hearst Television.
DirecTV shares 1.2 percent to $48.78 on Tuesday while Viacom
shares lost a fraction of a cent to finish at $49.96. Disney
shares gained 3.1 percent, closing at $49.35 on the New York
Stock Exchange after an analyst upgraded the company's shares.