The first 18 weeks of the season has been kind to the cablers and rough on the broadcast networks, according to new ratings analysis released today by the CableTelevision Advertising Bureau today.
According to the organization, cable ratings in primetime on the key advertiser demo of 18-49 grew by 5.1%, while broadcast shrank by 8.3% on Nielsen Media Research live-plus-same day numbers. In the 25-54 category, the change over last year is even bigger with ad supported cable growing 6.9% and broadcast shrinking 6.5%. The research now being shopped to ad agencies, suggests the most substantial shifts are occurring on what the CAB termed “retail-critical,” nights of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
One explanation for the change could be the historic presidential election which kept viewers glued to cable news channels all year.
Sean Cunningham, president and CEO of the CAB said, “I think that was certainly part of it. If you factored out news, you’d still see an enormous change.”
Another potential factor for the poor showing was that the networks had a poor fall and are launching more of their better performing shows in January. Commercial ratings known as C3, are the currency of the business, though many people look at live plus same day data to analyze historical trends. Cunningham said cable did well on which ever set of data was used, even live plus seven (where shows played back over the course of seven days are taken into account).
The trend towards cable appears to have cemented as a result of the writers’ strike and it seems likely that the data will be grist for the media buyers’ mill as upfront strategies begin to bubble.
“I think in a time when there’s so much need for results for store traffic and lifts in brand attributes the viewer flight is something that has to be examined.” Cunningham said cable was the only “growth engine in television.”
He suggests that the writers’ strike sent viewers sampling a lot of different types of programming on cable and resulted in increased viewership which has translated into increased loyalty.”
CAB measured ad-supported cable performance against seven broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, Fox, ION, MyNetworkTV and NBC. The organization looked at 80 ad supported cable nets.