Cable Reports Gains Over Broadcast, But What About One-on-One?

The cable industry has long touted its superiority in pulling in more overall viewers than broadcast networks--especially in comparing large numbers of cable channels versus that of the smaller handful of broadcast networks. But what about going one-on-one?

Lately, ad-supported cable has also shown leadership over broadcast networks in the key area of 18- to 49-year-old viewers. But the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau says that through the first weeks of the season, ad-supported cable was 4.2 share points behind broadcast. That's roughly the same difference as this time a year ago.

The CAB touts the decline in the share difference between the two TV formats over the years. Cable was around 7.5 share points behind broadcast in 2004 at this point of the season, and about 13.5 share points behind in 2003.

Less touted by the CAB was the fact that through the first weeks of the season the cable industry lost 1.4 share points among 18-49 viewers, while broadcast was losing about the same, 1.7 share points.



As everyone in the TV advertising business knows, 18-49 viewers are the primary demo for the majority of national TV advertisers. Cable networks already have plenty of older viewers--25-54--as well as young viewers, kids 2-11, and kids 6-11.

For some time media agency executives have talked about an increasing cable rating erosion--especially as more networks mature, and established networks have little room for subscriber growth. Media agency executives also use the argument that cable's seemingly unlimited advertising inventory can glut up the upfront and scatter markets.

But the real goal should be not to compare apples and oranges anymore. Why are some 60 ad-supported cable networks pitted against six or seven broadcast networks? Better to compare them one-on-one, since that's the way advertisers put together their media plans. And in future years, add in the YouTubes, Yahoos and MySpaces of the world. That would separate the real performers from the pretenders.

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