Cable Networks Register Sharp Declines

Summer isn’t exactly a strong ratings playground for cable networks anymore.

Top cable networks' ratings continued their decline that began at the end of April -- down 6.8% in July to 18.17 million 18-49 viewers in C3 ratings, the average commercial ratings plus three days of time-shifted data, according to a report by MoffettNathanson Research.

Broadcasters also dipped -- 3.7% to 5.19 million 18-49 viewers in the C3 measure. However, these declines were less than the double-digit percentage drops in the second quarter of the year.

Looking specifically at the broadcast networks, Fox was down 12% to 1.3 million 18-49 viewers in C3, while CBS was off 6% to 1.27 million and NBC slipped 2% to 1.4 million. ABC gained 3% as a result of selected World Cup games, to 1.2 million.

In July, only a handful of top cable networks witnessed improvements: ESPN (up 10%); Food Network (2.3%); HGTV (4.6%) and AMC (2.0%).

Some major cable brands that have declined include: TNT (down 22.9%); TBS (14.7%); FX (16.5%); Fox News (4%); CNN (25.6%); MTV (19.0%); Nickelodeon (20.1%); TV Land (22.6%); ABC Family (6.5%); Discovery (down 16.5%); TLC (12.9%); Animal Planet (28.7%); and Nat Geo (4.5%).

Cable groups as a category also slipped in July. Discovery Networks were down 9% to 1.88 million among 18-49 viewers in C3; Viacom was also off 9% to 3.33 million; NBCUniversal sank 11% to 2.55 million; Time Warner dropped 17% to 2.7 million; and A&E gave back 20% to 1.66 million.

Networks that showed improvement included AMC networks, up 15% to 673,000 (thanks to Sundance Channel); Fox cable networks, which gained 12% to 1.39 million (FXX showed great improvement); Scripps Networks Interactive, which grew 2% to 1.18 million; and Disney, which inched up 1% to 1.3 million.

Cable networks traditionally use the summer period to launch their original TV shows. But now broadcast networks also compete with original programming. Analysts note that the growth of digital media is also a factor.

Recommend (7) Print RSS
4 comments about "Cable Networks Register Sharp Declines".
  1. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC , August 14, 2014 at 1:50 p.m.
    Wayne, Given the headline, have you researched the possibility that the changes you are seeing in the broadest measures of broadcast and cable usage have more to due with methodological artifacts and substantial changes in Nielsen's measurement methodologies than they have to do with programming schedules or real changes in viewer behavior. Given the dimensions and directions of the changes you outline, it would seem that the sole measurment of TV audiences needs an open and thoroughgoing examination beyond that offered by the MRC. Without objective reference points rooted in first-rate methodological research of the calibre associated with CONTAM (instituted like the MRC, based on a Congressional recommendation in 1963) the industry will be left to ride some kind of amusement park rollercoaster of data variations instead of walking on the solid ground of accurate, reliable and useful knowledge that is necessary to make sound business decisions. If the MediaPost isn't probing, one fears no one is. This is serious. There is a lack of face validity in these data. Onwards & upwards. Nick
  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC , August 14, 2014 at 3:18 p.m.
    Wayne, upon reflection, it would have been helful if you had told MediaPost readers more about your source, MoffetNathanson Research. Could its conclusions in some way be a product of its purpose and practice. Below is some information derived from your source's website: "With the addition ... of leading Media analyst Michael Nathanson, independent research firm Moffett Research LLC has been renamed MoffettNathanson LLC. The firm's new web address is www.moffettnathanson.com. MoffettNathanson LLC is an independent research boutique that brings together two analysts who have been at the top of their respective sectors for most of the past decade. Together, they bring almost fifty years of experience in Media and Telecommunications. Craig Moffett has repeatedly been named both the top Telecommunications analyst and the top Cable & Satellite analyst in the U.S. ... Michael Nathanson has consistently been named the top Media analyst in the U.S. ... Mr. Moffett and Mr. Nathanson worked closely together for eight years at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., LLC, regularly collaborating on research that spanned the Media Content and Distribution value chain. Their joint research included seminal reports on video over the Internet, programming cost inflation, and retransmission consent. By reuniting at the new MoffettNathanson, the two bring a unique perspective not just to their individual sectors but to the intersections between them. "Now more than ever, what our clients really need and want is insight into the whole value chain, and the way the pieces of the puzzle fit together," said Nathanson. MoffettNathanson is a partnership of six seasoned investment professionals – Moffett, Nathanson, Patrick O'Connell, Ethan Steinberg, John Towers, and David Cielusniak – each of whom brings more than a decade of investment advisory experience. Five of the partners – Moffett, Nathanson, O'Connell, Steinberg, and Towers – were previously colleagues at Bernstein. They are joined by Cielusniak, formerly of Conquest Capital Group, who serves as the firm's Chief Operating Officer, General Counsel, and Chief Compliance Officer." So, Wayne, your source is a research boutique? How chic! Secondary sources may be convenient, but they are not compelling or convincing by classic MediaPost standards. You need to do better by your informed readers. Hence, what we need first -- and now -- is a methological assessment of your analytical sources. Onwards & upwards.
  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc , August 14, 2014 at 7:16 p.m.
    I think that Nick makes some good points about trying to find out why such changes happened. I know it's not always easy but it might have helped to get some comments about this from the networks and cable channels----if there was time and their research people could be contacted. Also, it would be important to see what changes, if any, occurred in total TV usage and comparable data for other demos. For example, did viewing by people over 50 also decline? What about men versus women? What were the effects of unusual competitive fare? etc., etc. I should also point out that the differences indicated in the report, when compared to last year's data , are, in most cases, quite small. The four broadcast networks collectively dropped 4% to 5.192 million adult 18-49 viewers per minute. Fine! But last July's tally was 5.398 million for the same four networks, which is only a few hundred thousand higher. It can be argued that these projections reflect the aggregate audience tonnage attained by each broadcast network and cable channel across a month, which certainly increases their theoretical statistical "stability". However, a more valid analysis would have tracked the ups and downs over a series of many months and seasons to see if July 2014's "bad news" really reflected a long term trend or just another dip one gets from time to time due to research issues or other factors.
  4. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC , August 15, 2014 at 9:24 p.m.
    My hat is off to Mr. Papzian for a careful and clarifying illustration of the kind of assessment that best serves the interested and involved parties. I say this, not gratuitously, there is no substitute for the professional and expertise offered by Ed Papazian. Ed and I have not always been on the same side of the fence, but without question, I bow to his expertise and differ only when I feel the ground beneath me is solid. On this matter, he sets the model for the rest of us. Expressed differently from Ed, what I found most peculiar was the obsession with July ratings. As Ed points out without a context like a years worth of data annotated with influential events and methodological adjustments, we are left only with a "gee whiz," "too bad for them" story. In sum, thanks you, Ed, for upholding the standards of clear thinking and careful analysis. Warmly, Nick Yes ... Onwards and upwards ... better is possible!