Time Viewed On Cable Nets Rose In 2020, Ad Concerns Remain

After years of declining viewing time on cable TV networks, 2020 witnessed a small spike -- due to sharply increasing news coverage. But long-term, advertising concerns will remain for cable networks, says one analyst.

Last year, TV news networks amassed 2.01 billion minutes viewed for persons ages 2+, Nielsen says -- a 36% increase, which makes news the leading type of content on cable TV networks, according to MofffettNathanson Research.

All cable TV programming content categories, apart from news, declined in 2020 versus the year before.

Cable TV news topped leading unscripted TV programming, which declined 7% to 1.59 billion minutes viewed.

Syndicated TV content and movies were in a distant third and fourth place -- 598 million (down 3%) and 592 million (falling 9%), respectively.

In 2020, live cable TV viewing grew 20% among all cable networks to 2.4 billion minutes, given the strong results from major TV networks in 2020. This growth occurred despite the decline in live sports content of 30%, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Live cable TV network viewing was up 4% since 2011. Still, longer-term overall trends for cable channels don't indicate a positive outlook.

Michael Nathanson, senior research analyst, writes that cable TV networks' position as a “brand-safe” environment will be tested in the coming years.

“As cord-cutting and viewership declines persist going forward, TV will need to rely on rising CPMs to support total ad spend.”

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