National TV networks suffered a slowdown in advertising revenue for the third quarter -- with the first nine months of the year showing networks modestly higher.
Estimates from MoffettNathanson Research show that major broadcast and cable TV networks slipped 0.5% in the third quarter to $8.19 billion.
Broadcast networks were down 0.3% to $3.09 billion in the period, with NBC’s results (which include its TV stations) bucking the trend -- up 4.4% to $1.15 billion. CBS was next -- down 0.9% to $785 billion -- followed by ABC, 3% lower at $717 billion; and Fox, which dropped 6% to $439 billion.
Cable networks, as a group, fared the worst -- down 0.6% to $5.1 billion. The best results in cable were 21st Century Fox and Scripps Networks each gaining 5% during the period, at $478 million and $423 million, respectively. Disney-ABC cable networks also did well, up 3% to $949 million. Discovery inched up 1.3% to $388 million.
On the losing end: Time Warner cable networks slipped 0.4% to $836 million, and NBCU cable was down further -- 4.7% to $796 million. Viacom dropped 5% to $1.1 billion and AMC Networks lost 5.8% to $138 million.
For the first nine months of the year, TV advertising revenue looked better -- up 3.8% to $27.6 billion. Broadcast networks as a group were up 6.1% to $11.4 billion, while major cable networks’ growth was at 2.3% to $16.2 billion.
Explaining the latest quarterly results, Michael Nathanson, senior analyst of MoffettNathanson, writes:
“First, we strongly believe measurement issues are leading to shockingly bad ratings, especially with cable networks targeting younger demos. The lack of ratings points are putting companies behind even before they start trying to sell advertising.
He adds: “It sounds like the quarter was hurt by TV budget weakness in several key TV categories like autos, retail and movies. Lastly, there is finally a growing acknowledgement that the shift to digital platforms is taking share out of TV budgets.”