TV Net Viewer Erosion Records Mid Single-Digit Losses

Heading into the upfront market, all TV networks on average are showing some mid single-digit percentage-level viewer erosion on 18-49 viewers.

Cable networks are down 5% on a season-to-date Nielsen total day live program-plus-same day time-shifting basis among 18-49 viewers (through March 27) with broadcast networks are down 3% through March 20, according to a study from MoffettNathanson Research.

Three of the four broadcast networks are off by high single-digit percentages -- ABC off 9%; Fox slipping 7% and NBC, dow9%. Only CBS has showed growth -- up 8%, this in large part because of the Super Bowl which aired in February. The previous TV season NBC aired the Super Bowl.

The Fox network has been off by big percentages of late, due to the later spring start of “Empire”, which haven’t been included in recent season average estimates.



Cable networks groups are not immune from the erosion. NBCUniversal cable networks are off 12% in total day Nielsen live plus same day 18-49 ratings. Positives here came from gains at MSNBC and NBC Sports Network of late.

Disney’s networks are down 9%. There were increases at Disney Channel, with flat results at ESPN. A+E Networks have sunk 16% season to date. The group converted its H2 channel to Viceland which isn’t rated by Nielsen.

Discovery Communications is off 6% -- with some losses at Discovery and TLC, but gains at Animal Planet.

2 comments about "TV Net Viewer Erosion Records Mid Single-Digit Losses ".
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  1. Long Ellis from Tetra TV, April 4, 2016 at 1:37 p.m.

    As this continues to happen, the only way the TV networks will be able to survive is leveraging new TV audience and attribution data, not Nielsen, which is painting a really bad picture right now. The TV sales approach will need to evolve to: "You shouldnt care about our Nielsen ratings, our programming drives less waste, a more engaged viewer and maximizes ROI". They will need better data to tell that story. 

    The TV networks can't handle the number of new TV measurment data sets with their exisiting sales planning capabilities, however. Companies like MASS Exchange will save the day. 

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 4, 2016 at 3:45 p.m.

    Long, some friendly observations on your comments about the TV netorks and where they need to go to solve their primetime rating woes.

    The TV networks are surviving just fine even though their primetime program fare is, indeed, suffering rating erosion because they are developing significant revenue streams from non-advertising sources. Not only that, but they are selling something like $2 billion worth of digital ads and they own very profitable major market TV station groups. Also, they are, at long last, getting into the SVOD business in a more serious way. I should also note that the original network "troika", ABC, CBS and NBC, also offer very profitable daytime, early news and late night fare, due in large part to the low costs of such shows, making their eroding ratings more than acceptable.

    The real way to evaluate the broadcast TV networks' primetime shows is as "loss leaders". Even if the networks make minimal profits on such programs, they are well worth it because they feed into the syndication "aftermarket" whose profit potentials are still very high---and the networks share in these profits with their program suppliers.

    The suggestion that the networks abandon Nielsen and move to an "attribution""audience model---a la digital----to show advertisers how certain of their programs offer better than assumed targeting, is not realistic. First, the networks, in their current programming mindset, have very few shows that are really out of the ordinary when it comes to targeting prime prospects for most advertisers. Second, even if that was not the case, the networks must sell out all of their ad time, not just the better 25%, hence their reliance on packaging the good with the not so good. It's not a solution to point out that the networks can demand higher CPMs for better targeted viewers as they would have to increase their commercial loads in shows delivering said targets to such an extent that no one in their right mind would watch them; what's more no advertiser would want to share its spots with 15 or 20 other ads per break. 

    It seems to be assumed that because the TV networks are beset with fragmenting ratings, that this signals their demise and desperate measures are needed to avert disaster. I submit that the fully programmed networks---ABC, CBS and NBC, counting all of their national revenues, are probably doing better in terms of pre-tax profit margins that they have been in the past 30 years. The situation for Fox, is quite a different matter as it operates only in primetime and sports but does not have any early AM, daytime, early News or late night fare to bring in profitable ad revenues.

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