As C3 Ratings Continue Drop, Cable Adds Spots

Analyst sees biggest increases in commercial loads at networks with falling viewership

TV audiences measured by the C3 commercial ratings used to buy and sell advertising continue to slide in the first quarter and programmers with the biggest decline are adding more commercials to their air to keep revenues from falling faster.

According to a new report from Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger, C3 audiences in primetime were down about 10% from last year.

The Winter Olympics a year ago throws some comparisons out of whack, but Juenger says he is nonetheless able to identify some winners and losers in terms of audience share.  Those winners included Disney and 21st Century, followed by CBS, Scripps Networks Interactive and AMC Networks. The losers were A+E Networks, Viacom and NBCUniversal.

“Conventional ad-supported TV audiences continue to get worse, and the ratings ‘losers’ continue to stuff more advertising into programming – which produces more near-term ad revenue but risks further pushing away viewers and reducing advertiser ROI,” Juenger said in his report.

Juenger says A+E, Viacom, Disney (ABC Family), AMC and NBCU all increased the ad loads on their cable networks, excluding news and sports programming. Ad loads at A+E and Viacom were up more than 5%. At Viacom, the ad load was up on 10 of 11 networks.

Fox, Time Warner, Discovery and Scripps Networks decreased the aggregate ad load on their cable networks compared to a year ago.

Juenger says that kids networks were the worst performers, despite bouncing upwards in March because of extremely bad weather. He says they returned to negative territory in April. All of the major kids networks increased their ad and promo loads, led by Disney XD, which was up 15%.

“Nickelodeon had the lowest percentage increase (3%), perhaps because there is no more room to stuff ads on Nick,” Juenger observed. “Cartoon Network, the big ratings winner for the quarter among kids’ networks (surprisingly) continue to carry the highest absolute ad/promo load among kids networks.”

(Photo via Ervins Strauhmanis's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 19, 2014 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)