In addition to ratings erosion, most television networks are seeing declines in reach—the number of different people who tune in during a month.
In an analysis of July data from Nielsen, analyst Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research says that the broadcast networks continue to offer significantly more reach than even the top tier of cable networks.
Reach is important to advertisers, who want their ads viewed by many different viewers rather than the same ones over and over again. It is also important to distributors, who want to know networks are being watched by large number of their subscribers (although niche networks with passionate followings are also attractive).
Among the broadcast networks, NBC had the greatest reach at 81.7% of TV households, down 1.49 percentage points. CBS showed the least erosion in its reach, dropping 0.55 points to 80%.
The top tier of cable networks, led by Time Warner’s TNT, had reaches that ranged from 51.4% to 47.9%. Other top cable networks in terms of reach were TBS, AMC, USA and FX.
Wieser calculates that the typical cable network lost about 1.2% points of reach compared to the same month a year ago.
But some cable networks gained reach, particularly those in the news and sports categories. Big gainers including Fox Business Network, CNN, NBC Sports Network and Fox News Channel. Most of the other gainers were smaller networks, such as AMC’s BBC America and SundanceTV, Discovery’s Velocity, Viacom’s Logo and Scripps Networks’ GAC.
Wieser said the biggest declines were registered by NBCU’s E!, Viacom’s TV Land, NBCU’s Bravo and Discovery’s Animal Planet.