Cable TV networks in 2019 posted a decline of near 10% overall in total viewership when looking at the top 20 channels -- with young viewers departing at a greater rate and older viewers remaining virtually flat.
Total day cable TV viewership for viewers 18-49 was down an average of 15% to 7.1 million, while viewership for those 50 years and older witnessed a 4% drop to 13.9 million, according to analysis by MoffettNathanson Research.
This analysis is for total day Nielsen C3 measurement -- the average minute commercial rating plus three days of time-shifted viewing.
By contrast, broadcast TV had slightly better results -- a 10% decline in 18-49 viewers to 3.0 million and a 4% decline in viewers 50 years and older to 9.1 million.
Looking specifically at cable TV program genres for younger 18-49 viewers, sports and lifestyle programming was down 12%, while news programming was off 23%.
By contrast, those 50 and older witnessed declines of 1% in news programming, 3% in lifestyle programming and 5% each in sports and general entertainment.
News programming is by far the most dominant viewing for these older viewers -- pulling in an average 412,000 viewers, with general entertainment next at 122,000.
For 18-49 viewers, the picture is more mixed: 89,000 viewers for general entertainment, 68,000 for children/family programming, and 67,000 for news programming.
All this factors into analysts' cable TV network concerns about cord-cutting of traditional pay TV services that sell big packages of networks.
Writes Michael Nathanson, media analyst of MoffettNathanson Research: “We continue to believe older viewers and sports and news are the linchpin of the pay TV ecosystem.”