Cable Nets See 8% Viewing Declines In 2019 As Young Viewers Depart, Older Viewers Remain

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.

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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.”

4 comments about "Cable Nets See 8% Viewing Declines In 2019 As Young Viewers Depart, Older Viewers Remain".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 15, 2020 at 1:22 p.m.

    It's not just older viewers who are the linchpins of "pay TV", it's also the low brows---those with sub par educations and vocations who are less fussy about what they watch and, generally, will turn to TV rather than reading or going to a museum or the interent  when they have time on their hands. This cuts across all age groups. For example about 15-20% of "pay TVs most frequent viewers---those who spend at least 7 hours a day with TV----are millennials. This is a smaller percentage than was the case in the mid-1960s per a report in our just released annual, "TV Dimensions 2020", but it's still a significant figure. Needless to say, most of today's heavy vieweing millennials are not college grads which is a fair indicator of their intellectual bent---or lack thereoff.

  2. Eric Nelson from Dicom Inc., January 16, 2020 at 10:12 a.m.

    I think there could be a few other influencing conditions at play here as well.  The economy is booming and more people in the 18-49 age group are working, essentially forcing them to streaming services to binge watch when they can.  The other is politics.  Heding into a longer and longer political cycle is wearing out the younger age groups that are tired of the same story being told to death across all the cable news nets.  Fatigue is setting in for viewers who are tuning out.

  3. Eric Nelson from Dicom Inc., January 16, 2020 at 10:12 a.m.

    I think there could be a few other influencing conditions at play here as well.  The economy is booming and more people in the 18-49 age group are working, essentially forcing them to streaming services to binge watch when they can.  The other is politics.  Heding into a longer and longer political cycle is wearing out the younger age groups that are tired of the same story being told to death across all the cable news nets.  Fatigue is setting in for viewers who are tuning out.

  4. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, January 16, 2020 at 11:35 a.m.

    Ed, all true, but I'm not sure TVB or CTAM is busy preparing a brochure touting their channels' ability to target "older and low-brow" consumers, however numerous they are. "Smaller" is a tougher sell.

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