Are TV Networks' Viewer Declines NPX-Related?

TV networks have now witnessed their first double-digit percentage declines since Nielsen moved to NPX, its expanded viewer sample panel.

Cable TV ratings were down 10% in total day live program-plus-same day 18-49 ratings for the week of Feb. 15-21, according to MoffettNathanson Research.

The research company says this was the first week of double-digit declines since Nielsen transitioned to its NPX -- National Panel Expansion. Nielsen made the change starting December 28, 2015.

NPX is controversial because it uses mathematical modeling of demographic data -- Nielsen's Viewer Assignment methodology -- to be incorporated into tuning data of set-meter market and some diary TV market homes.

Viewer assignment eliminates paper diaries in 45 markets -- 31 set meter markets (markets size 26 and smaller) and 14 diary markets using "code readers." Demographic data for the 25 largest TV markets are derived from people meters.

The biggest cable TV group losers in the most recent week were A+E Networks, off 15%; Disney, down 12%; Discovery Communications, losing 19%; NBCUniversal, sinking 14%; and Viacom, down 10%.

The week before, cable TV was flat versus the previous week. February 1 through February 7 was off 5%; and January 25 through 31, cable network TV groups inched up 1%.

Only independent cable TV witnessed growth -- up 3% -- in the most recent week. In the previous three weeks, those networks had an average of 20% to 33% gains. Scripps Networks Interactive, which had improved during that period of 4% to 10%, lost ground in the most recent week -- down 6%.

Broadcast network data was unavailable at press time for the most recent week. But for the week ending February 14, the broadcast networks were down 11%. Season-to-date, those networks have been faring a little better than cable networks -- down 3% versus cable which is off 5%.  

In their most recent week ending February 14, CBS is 4% higher; ABC down 11% (the fifth consecutive week of declines), while  NBC sank 26% (below its season-to-date average of being down 10%); and Fox was off 7% (better than its 17% decline of the week before).

3 comments about "Are TV Networks' Viewer Declines NPX-Related?".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, February 24, 2016 at 1:25 p.m.

    Must be the 5-6%v Netflix share projected by a ratings Pro.

    No worrries, TV viewership is disconnected from granular data.

  2. Philip Moore from Philip Moore, February 24, 2016 at 1:53 p.m.

    Sounds like technology is catching up with reality.  TV viewership has been declining steadily, almost as rapidly as TV commercial viewership, but Nielsen has been slow to recognize and report this.  By dragging their feet, Nielsen has created a whole new marketplace.  TV accountability at the most sophisticated companies is moving away from the "ratings" provided by Nielsen and comScore/Rentrak and toward actual performance as measured by companies like Marketing Evolution and Precision Demand (now AOL One).

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 24, 2016 at 2:26 p.m.

    Philip, TV viewing has not declined at all. In fact it is slowly but steadily rising as more and more programmed channels appear, including digital options. All that is happening is that TV viewing is being split up among more channels and/or platforms, hence the average minute audience for many individual channels---especially those which started with the largest numbers of viewers (the broadcast networks ) is shrinking. But these "lost" viewers are not taking up badminton, reading or radio as an alternative. They are merely watching TV on  other channels.

    As for TV commercial viewership, Nielsen is not able to measure this, though it happily supplies average minute "commercial minute rating"s to its subscribers, many of whom take such data as gospel. Of course, the amount of commercial avoidance has risen as ad clutter on TV mounts and  mechanisms like DVRs arrive on the scene. Also, at least one reason for the increase of SVOD subs is antipathy towards commercials by some segments of the population. But lots of commercials still gain exposure and get their messages across---not as easily as in the less cluttered 1960s and 1970s, perhaps, but still to a surprising extent. Guided by somewhat antiquated but still indicative commercial impact testing systems, many advertisers and their agencies have learned how to create more effective TV ads, using shorter scenes and faster cuts, symbolic effects, etc. to cope, to some degree, with shrinking viewer attention spans and rising discontent about the number of ads per break. So, yes, there is attrition, but at this point, it's vexing and cause for concern----but not neccessarily terminal.

    Finally, I don't see how we are going to depart from some sensible form of audience buying and replace this with "performance", by which I assume that you mean ad awareness or sales. That's more a planning function than the responsibility of TV time buyers and sellers. The sellers, in particular, aren't going to guarantee awareness or sales when they have no control over the nature and quality of the product, its pricing and distribution and the effectiveness of its brand positionning and commercial executions.

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