TV Networks Q4: Double-Digit Viewing Declines, Ad Revenues Up Slightly

TV networks will inch up with slightly better-than-expected advertising revenue gains in the fourth quarter as network commercial ratings viewership continues to sink by double-digit percentages.

TV networks are estimated to rise 2.3% in advertising revenue to $11.2 billion for the fourth quarter of 2018, according to MoffettNathanson Research.

Broadcast TV networks are rising 3.2% (to $5.2 billion), while cable TV networks are 1.5% higher (to $6 billion).

MoffettNathanson says these advertising results are “surprising." It notes that “despite continued challenged ratings trends, we are slightly increasing our 4Q national advertising growth forecast.”

This trend continues TV advertising network revenue gains for the year -- up 9% in the first quarter of 2018; 1% in the second quarter and 3% in the third quarter.

Much of the large first-quarter gain was due to NBC’s Winter Olympic coverage.

At the same time, Nielsen prime-time C3 ratings -- average commercial ratings plus three days of time-shifted viewing -- were down 12% in the fourth quarter for both broadcast and cable TV networks when it comes to 18-49 viewers. In total, they averaged 20.6 million.

MoffettNathanson Research says this result is slightly better than in previous periods.

Fox was the best-performing broadcast network -- estimated to be up 23% in ad revenue in the quarter to $1.3 billion -- in large part due to its exclusive airing of NFL’s “Thursday Night Football.”

NBCUniversal (including its TV stations) climbed 2.1% to $1.9 billion. ABC was down 3% to $878 million, while CBS lost 8.2% to $1.1 billion.

Top cable TV network groups included Walt Disney, up 5% to $1.3 billion; Discovery (including Scripps Networks and other ventures), 4.5% more to $1 billion, and Fox, 4% more to $579 million.

NBCUniversal (recently reported results) was flat at $878 million. WarnerMedia was also flat at $1 billion, while Viacom was down 3% to $909 million and AMC Networks was 4% lower, to $258 million.

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