Broadcast, Cable Viewing Numbers Drop

Television viewing in May -- one of the final big months of the year for some TV networks -- took another expected decline among key viewers, while non-TV viewing witnessed continued improvement. Ad-supported cable TV networks were not immune to dips either.

Broadcast prime-time 18-49 viewers had a 16% decline in May versus an average 6.4 million versus the same period a year before, looking at Nielsen’s C3 ratings, average commercial ratings plus three days of time-shifting. The analysis came from MoffettNathanson Research.

Ad-supported cable TV networks were not immune -- down 7% to 18.2 million 18-49 viewers in C3 prime-time numbers. Cable was also off 6% in total day 18-49 viewers to 10.7 million.

Looking at specific broadcast networks, ABC fared the best of the worst in prime time -- down 8% to 1.87 million 18-49 viewers in Nielsen C3; CBS was down 18% to 1.5 million; NBC was off 20% to 1.6 million; and Fox gave up 24% to 1.3 million.



The best-performing cable networks groups in prime time included Fox, up 3% to 1.26 million in C3 18-49 metrics; Disney networks, which gained 3% to 2.03 million; AMC Networks, which added 3% to 659,000; and Discovery networks, which inched up 1% to 1.94 million.

On the losing end, Scripps Networks Interactive slipped 1% to 1.1 million; Time Warner lost 9% to 3.3 million; A&E Networks was down 16% to 1.35 million; and Viacom sank 19% 2.58 million.

Live TV viewing was down 8% in May among prime-time 18-49 viewers, according to MoffettNathanson, with time-shifted viewing virtually the same, up 1%.

Other increases came from digital sources. For example, video game consoles, which includes subscription video on demand viewing, was up 26%; other multimedia device usage, 83% higher.

11 comments about "Broadcast, Cable Viewing Numbers Drop".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, June 16, 2015 at 12:52 p.m.

    Are the Broadcast Networks alarmed or just relying on reetransmission fee growth no matter what the audience size will ultimately be?

  2. James Fennessy from SMI, June 16, 2015 at 12:56 p.m.

    Fascinating to see SMI's just released ad dollars for May have fallen almost exactly in line with the ratings performance Wayne outlines above. 

  3. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, June 16, 2015 at 1:19 p.m.

    Dear Wayne & MDN Readers,

    What we are really looking at in this situation is Nielsen taking a short (measurement) stick to the long (audience) tail.

    So much unnecessary drama and unreal headlines.

    Unless I am mistaken, Nielsen's reports of program (& commercial) audience & TV usage still do not include the viewing that is done on digital devices such as iPads and iPhones and similar devices with different brand names.  Perhaps you own one or more of these mobile devices and have used them frequently to watch TV or other Video.  

    Further, if your sole exposure to TV Programming & Commercials is a mobile device in your home, pocket or briefcase, then you are no longer counted in the audience to television programs, because you don't have a TV whose basic design is 65 years-old.  
    (BTW: What is that Nielsen-related notice I find in the settings of my "FiOS Mobile" App?)

    Hence, this reported drop in Broadcast & Cable viewing is actually a METHODOLOGICAL ARTIFACT. In effect, it is an incomplete, inadequate measurement system looking at itself in a mirror that all can see, who subscribe to see the service or read the trades.  

    In this particular case, it appears that what has dropped is Nielsen's ability to measure real world "TV," video audiences and total "TV-like" devices!
    Due to MEDIADAILYNEWS space limitations, this comment will conclude in the post immediately following.  Thank you.

  4. Jim Monroe from Net2TV Corporation, June 16, 2015 at 1:22 p.m.

    Good question, Leonard.  And how do networks expect retrans fees to grow if their audiences shrink?  Broadcasters need to figure out digital and OTT right now!

  5. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, June 16, 2015 at 1:25 p.m.

    (Continued from prior comment due to MDN space limitations.  Thank you.)

    Dear Wayne & MDN Readers,

    What we are really looking at in this situation is Nielsen taking a short (measurement) stick to the long (audience) tail.

    So much unnecessary drama and unreal headlines.


    In this particular case, it appears that what has dropped is Nielsen's ability to measure real world "TV," video audiences and total "TV-like" devices!

    You may recall a similar case of a metholodological artifact imposing itself upon the business. It occurred at just the time when TiVO, Cable and Telco introduced DVR's into US homes, including NTI NPM Sample or Panel homes and Nielsen did not promptly install a measurement device to capture and report the DVR audience (as opposed ti Live) for what seemed like almost 2 years.

    Hence, unless someone "comes clean," it would appear that the industry is in for at least 2 more years of "depressing" headlines about the decline in TV Viewing.  In fact, there will come a time when TV ratings will go up inexplicably ... except we'll all know why.  

    Nielsen Management must embrace Reverse Global Warming Theory:  The audience is continually going down and it is the viewers' fault.  Sixty-five (65) year-old "meters" measure TV's temperature just fine.  Rectal thermometers seem to be good for the long haul.  Oral thermometers have yet to prove themselves.  (So many mixed metaphors!)

    The next time you see your Nielsen Rep ask about a "Methodological Artifact."  First, you may want to know if they can define one.  Then, you may want to know if they can offer you a current example.

    I guess all this nonsense is why people call this a "FUN" Business; not to be confused with Funny Business!

    Onwards & upwards.

    Nicholas P. Schiavone

    PS Hope you have developoed your ARF Audience Measurement Mandate for 2015 by now.  So many opportunities.  Just read an MRC Audit, if you're a MRC Member.

    My personal favorite is #StopBadNPXThruVAP.  To each his or her own.

  6. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 16, 2015 at 2:47 p.m.

    @Jim, the declines shown above, do not reflect the total audience delivery of the broadcast TV networks, but only that portion---a minority portion, by the way--- that is "shrinking" to the greatest extent. The median age of broadcast fare viewers is now over 54 years, with ABC, CBS and NBC slanted even older, so the losses in 18-49s---if, as Nick points out, they are actually losses---- while not a happy development, does not, in and of itself, diminish the value of their programming to the stations. The stations cater primarily to local advertisers, many of whom are fine with older audience skews----utilities, banks, store chains,  certain types of car dealers, etc. ---provided they aren't so far out of whack that they can no longer cover a large part of their consumer base. At present, we haven't reached this stage.

    In the interests of objectivity, I should note that I keep warning that the broadcast networks are kidding themselves if they believe that using the same old "tried and true" program suppliers will allow them to continue as "mass audience" entertainers. Its time to start taking chances and, at long last, make a serious an effort to appeal more to young adult viewers with "edgier" and out of the ordinary program content. In other words, aside from competing with eachother, they should also be competing with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, for audiences.

  7. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, June 16, 2015 at 3:25 p.m.

    Once again, Ed Papazian has taken a wise, holistic view of the all questions at hand.  And there is more than one!  Bravo!!  Grazie!!!

    In fact, Ed raises two more critical measurement & accountability issues in my mind, if one is to perform an adequate situation analysis:

    First, by continuing to focusing on TV performance using an 18-49 target demo, we ignore (that includes journalists, buyers, sellers & advertising researchers) the dramataic demographic changes afoot in this country.  Clearly, we need to define better our audience targets and business objectives.

    Note: Because population patterns are a dynamic phenomenon, please see this age pyramind in motion over time:

    Second, if the broadcast and cable networks telecast content appears on HULU with national commercial inventory, why is that audience not credited back to the networks when the viewing takes place on mobile devices?  And what about credit for OTT?  "Enquiring minds want to know"

    The questions and conjectures of Ed Papazian are of the essence and we ought to be thankful for his continued interest and concern for the truth as it can best be known.

    Onwards & upwards!

    Nicholas P. Schiavone

  8. Jim Monroe from Net2TV Corporation, June 16, 2015 at 4:18 p.m.

    As regards retransmission (not measurement...I'm way out of my depth in the presence of Nick and Ed!), payments to broadcasters are meant to compensate them for the network prgramming they bring to cable viewers.  If audiences increasingly watch network programming via online sources like Hulu or CBS All Access, wouldn't one expect the payments from cable providers to decline?  Total audience may not be dropping but according to this article, cable's share of it is. The value broadcasters provide to cable is diluted by their lack of exclusivity of their programming.

  9. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 16, 2015 at 4:39 p.m.

    @Jim, total audience is probably being affected too, but not as much as in the younger segments.

    It's important to remember that average commercail minute stats, as cited in most of these trending reports do not mean that the total viewing tonnage for all broadcast or basic cable channels is declining by anything like the reported average channel figures. Indeed, it is simply being divided---or sliced and diced---ever finer among more channels. Therefore, a typical subscriber, who prefers to have access to many channels, not a few, is paying for their collective value, even if he tunes in his preferred broadcast and cable channels 5-8% less often now, due to his use of Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.

    This raises the endlessly debated question of the wisdom of "unbundling", which some think is a better way to go. I doubt it as the end result would probably be the loss of many selectively programmed channels and considerably higher monthly costs per consumer to get what he suddenly discovers he wants----or needs.

  10. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, June 16, 2015 at 5:46 p.m.

    Jim Monroe was the best Advertising & Promotion Professional at the NBC Television Network during the era of MUST SEE TV.

    Monroe’s talents & skills enabled him to engage and motivate viewers like no A&P person I have ever met.  In fact, he instinctively produced spots that increased audience ratings in Texas by 10% when NBC was already on top nationally…but not in the Lone Star State!  

    Jim's sense of engagement and resonance made him a world-class Brand Champion for NBC's programs, stations and networks.  The Peacock never had it so good, as when Jim's digital paint brush hit the TV/Video canvas.

    Alas the reported “viewing drop” is too complex for comfort or concision, Jim.

    To start, Wayne Friedman’s article is wanting in precision and fails to identify the “flies in the (Nielsen) ointment.”  Even the best informed and most involved can be victimized and confounded by this mess.  Not only is the audience measurement apparently incomplete, but also there are behavioral matters of "time spent viewing" that impact criteria like "share" more than "reach."  But we are dealing with matters of proportion not balance or absolutes.

    Further, there is the hidden TV/Digital economy that seems, at times, to bear only remote relationship to viewing metrics.  For example, I'd suspect that by the end of 2016, regardless of ratings, everyone on the media side with be relatively richer than they are now ... because of the Presidential Election cycle that appears interminable, if not absurdly expensive.

    Well, onwards & upwards!


  11. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, June 16, 2015 at 5:47 p.m.

    PS Here is a clipping from my political science files that encapsulates what I like about the UK way of handling elections:

    Chicago Tribune

    We could learn a lot from the U.K. election / Our campaigns are too long and expensive

    May 14, 2010

    “Last week, Conservative Party leader David Cameron ousted Gordon Brown as prime minister of the United Kingdom.  On Tuesday, Brown resigned his post and Cameron moved to No. 10 Downing St.

    The campaign lasted one month and virtually nothing was spent by either campaign, compared with U.S. standards.

    The national election in the U.K. should be a wake-up call to Americans.

    Campaign spending in this country is out of control.

    In the 2008 presidential race, the candidates spent a total of $1.7 billion, double what was spent in the 2004 race. In the U.K. election, a spending cap of 20 million pounds, about $33 million, was imposed on each of the major parties. Of course, campaigns there are less expensive partly because of a ban on paid radio and TV advertising or any ads on matters of "political or industrial controversy."

    Enough said!  


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