Looking Five Years Ahead: Greater Ratings Anxiety For Cable Networks?

Five years from now, what's considered poor ratings for cable TV networks now might look a lot better then.

For many cable networks who count on the likes of off-broadcast network TV shows and other fare -- think “Big Bang Theory” on TBS; “Modern Family” on USA Network -- rougher times may be ahead.

Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBCUniversal, said during a Comcast earnings call  that many cable networks will be challenged to grow ratings because many of their shows are increasingly available on other digital services. Which means even more responsibility will lie with original programming efforts.

Still, that might not be enough. So NBC will look to spread the wealth with one programming segment that seemingly defies all kinds of digital erosion: sports.

To help out its cable networks, NBCUniversal is thinking of moving some of its sports programming to its other channels, such as USA Network. In the past, NBC has done this on USA Network, CNBC, MSNBC, Bravo and others  -- especially when facing an overabundance of once-every-two-year Olympic programming.

Cable advertising has also been taking a hit, during current periods and for the near future. The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau estimates advertiser commitments to cable networks during the 2014-2015 upfront market dropped 6% in revenues, to $9.6 billion.

More recently, individual cable network groups have reported soft ad results. For example, on Thursday, NBCUniversal reported, amid its parent Comcast Corp’s third quarter earnings, a somewhat unusual occurrence: its cable networks witnessed a 4.6% decline in revenues for the third quarter, while broadcast TV advertising sales rose.

Over the past couple of years, cable networks have been selectively subjected to viewership erosion like their older brothers, the broadcast networks. Now that viewership seems to have growing collateral damage



1 comment about "Looking Five Years Ahead: Greater Ratings Anxiety For Cable Networks?".
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  1. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, October 24, 2014 at 6:28 p.m.

    The only "Greater Ratings Anxiety" cable networks will feel "Looking Five Years Ahead" is based on Nielsen's threat to implement an apparently inane and irresponsible plan in 2015 to model (i.e., make-up) a substantial portion of its demographic viewing data in the Nielsen NPM/GTAM/STPM US TV Household Panel. Instead of increasing its sample size to reduce its standard error estimates, Nielsen will effectively guesstimate its persons viewing data to reduce its SE. It would seem that Nielsen's approach to Big Data is not to tabulate but to fabricate.

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