A November Surprise: Nielsen Sticks To Its Downbeat News For Cable Networks

Do you believe Nielsen now -- or do cable networks have a case? Maybe it’s other third-party measurement companies.

A week after publishing -- and then pulling back in its November 2016 cable universe estimates -- the big TV measurement company says it was right after all. The sky is falling, or, the very least, filled with lot of dark clouds, for some cable network and network groups when it comes to traditional TV distribution.        



Nielsen said the month-over-month decline was about half a percentage point (0.55) in the Cable Plus universe -- fewer homes subscribing to pay TV, traditional cable MSOs, telcos or satellite providers.

Brian Wieser, senior research analyst of Pivotal Research Group, published --  then pulled back his report after Nielsen’s announcement. Now, he stands by his original release.

Wieser says the median cable network penetration sank 1.4%. Among 119 measured networks, 37 showed some subscriber growth --- with some major players on the losing end, including Disney’s ESPN and ESPN2 sinking 3.1% and 3.0%, respectively.

Disney previously complained about the original release by Nielsen -- questioning its results and pointing to other more moderate third-party results. But Disney hasn’t to date offer up alternative research and methodology to counter Nielsen’s claim, according to Wieser.

Wieser added: “It serves to highlight that complaints from media owners or others that would benefit from adjustments to the data regarding Nielsen or any other audience measurement provider.”

This cable universe data isn’t just some fringe stuff. Hardly.

Wieser says: “These estimates are a core data element underpinning Nielsen’s TV ratings estimates.” As such, they are crucial in how marketers plan their TV media budgets. 

But what about gainers? For the month of November, cable networks at CBS grew 1.7%; Fox, 0.9%; Crown Media Holdings, 3.8%; Starz, 1.0%; and Univision, 0.9%. Looking at individual networks, Discovery’s Velocity grew 9.5%, and Fox’s Fox Movie Channel, a 7.6% improvement.

Nielsen went on to say the decline was not specific to a network or group of networks, and that it was researching new technologies --”'virtual MVPDs,” newer digital TV network packages -- that would be incorporated these TV homes into its estimates, with consultation of its clients.

That is one chief area ESPN does agree on -- at least for the long term. Concerning the latest estimates, it said in a statement: “It also does not measure DMVPDs [digital multichannel video program distributors] and other new distributors and we hope to work with Nielsen to capture this growing market in future reports.”

2 comments about "A November Surprise: Nielsen Sticks To Its Downbeat News For Cable Networks ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, November 7, 2016 at 9:16 a.m.

    I believe that it would be helpful if whole numbers as well as percent gains or losses were shown in this kind of reporting, Wayne. A 7.6% increase in the number of homes able to receive cable Channel X, may represent far fewer homes than Channel Y's much smaller gain of 1.4%. As for the accuracy of these projections, who knows? These are---as far as I know---survey results, not independently audited data so some dregree of variability due to the inherent vagaries inherent in research studies is to be expected. As a result, I'd pay more attention to longer ranging "trend" compilations and less to sudden ups and/or downs that are reported on a monthly basis.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, November 7, 2016 at 7:01 p.m.
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