Cable ad sales executives shrugging their shoulders at reports about cord-cutting, declining ratings and digital spending shifts threatening their business can probably continue to do that for a while. Among the top-25 networks in ad revenues last year, projections call for all of them to post gains in 2012, except two: the ratings-challenged Nickelodeon and CNN.
Nickelodeon revenues, which include Nick At Nite, are projected to fall 9% to $995 million, while CNN would drop 7% to $323 million this year.
Otherwise, the highest-grossing networks – and loads of smaller ones -- should only continue to climb even as many posted significant ratings declines in the April-June period. Of course, comparing ratings year-over-year in cable can be a poor indicator of performance since networks move hit shows into different quarters each year.
ESPN was the top-grossing network in ad revenues last year and is projected to post a 13% bump in 2012 to nearly $2 billion. That would keep it in first place. (Add another $280 million for ESPN2 and billions in affiliate fees and ESPN’s CFO has a lot to keep track of.)
Nick’s fall would drop it from the second highest-grossing network in 2011 to fifth this year. USA would climb to second with a 12% increase to $1.2 billion. That would come even with a 9% drop in ratings in the 18-to-49 demo, by one metric, in the April-June period.
The data comes from SNL Kagan as reported by Barclays in a comprehensive report on the media business.
Among last year’s top 10, TNT is projected to post a 12% increase this year – the same as rival USA – to $1.1 billion. TNT would apparently cross the $1 billion mark for the first time. While TNT’s schedule is heavily focused on the summer months, its second-quarter ratings experienced a 10% drop in the 18-to-49 demo, by one metric.
MTV is projected to post a 5% increase this year to $940 million. TBS would experience a 10% bump to $908 million. Fox News, with all that political coverage, would jump 9% to $737 million.
A pair of Scripps Networks, HGTV and Food, would continue to be the 8th and 9th highest-grossing cable outlets, though Food would pass its sibling in ad dollars, according to Kagan. HGTV would grow 8% to $604 million, while Food would be up 14% to $633 million.
Discovery Channel is projected to increase 9% to $583 million. Less impressive would be Spike, which looks to have the lowest volume bump, $2.5 million (0.8%), among the top 25.
Barclays also cited a CPM figure – presumably an average – for cable networks in 2011 from Kagan. In the top 20, ESPN led at $18.29, followed by MTV at a much lower $12.13. Bravo was third at $11.41.
Many of the other leaders were not surprisingly highly targeted networks such as the Outdoor Channel ($10.59) and Golf Channel ($10.35) in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Whether 2013 offers the same healthy revenue growth as 2012 will be impacted by the recent upfront market, where the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau reported a 5% increase in total commitments. That was down from the 16% increase networks rode this year, but cable keeps a large chunk of inventory open for the scatter market.