Not surprisingly, the start of the football season led to an uptick in broadcast TV usage. Somewhat unexpected, however, is that the gains for broadcast networks didn’t take away audience share for cable and streaming outlets, according to Nielsen’s Gauge snapshot of TV use for September.
The broadcast networks will be happy to put 2020 in their rear view mirror. Unlike streaming platforms, which got a tremendous boost from the nationwide shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the broadcast networks endured steep drops in primetime viewing this year. The drops in Nielsen ratings go far beyond the typical erosion of the past decade that is a result of viewer fragmentation due to the dramatic increase in content options coming from streaming services. Above, ABC was fortunate to be able to make fresh episodes of its unscripted hits like The Bachelorette.
Even in a world of participation trophies, broadcast-TV is having a harder and harder time competing in the industry’s major award shows — to a degree that one might wonder if a network show or star, worthy though they may be, can ever break out again.
How’s this for a plot twist: Traditional television networks got a boost in advertising commitments for the upcoming season from an unlikely client — streaming services. In conversations with network sales executives and media buyers, the influx of streaming services that are looking for ways to market themselves to prospective subscribers was cited as a reason for the better-than-expected performance this year.
One conclusion from the 2016-17 season: A show with ratings that once would have prompted cancellation can now be the source of some relief.
The big four broadcast networks continue to dominate the industry’s traditional Nielsen reach measures — even as some erosion has occurred. In July, broadcast networks had between 76% and 82% reach in the U.S. — reach defined here as homes watching each network for at least one minute in the month, according to Pivotal Research Group.
Comedy may still be a desired staple of primetime TV, but broadcasters haven’t found much to laugh about for the upcoming season.
TV executives have talked for years about the need for the airwaves to reflect the growing cultural diversity of America. But the 2014-15 television season has marked a turning point in the embrace of diversity as a business strategy.
MoffettNathanson Research expects broadcast networks to inch up 0.1% to $3.1 billion during the third quarter, when it comes to domestic national advertising, with cable networks 0.5% seeing $5.15 billion. Some of the biggest gainers will be CBS, 5.3% higher to $834 million; Walt Disney-ABC cable networks, 5% to $967 million; 21st Century Fox cable networks, 5% to $478 million; and Scripps Networks Interactive, 5% to $423 million.
Despite the umpteenth Emmy for ABC’s Modern Family, network television is most definitively under the microscope as a business. Compared to movie studios, television divisions still produce significant revenue, but that’s only because they have cable networks to lean on. The conclusion emerging is that over the long term network television is challenged — declining ratings, viewers’ ability to zap away commercials, Netflix fees on the decline and retransmission fees propping this up for who knows how long?
Broadcast network TV ratings erosion could worsen next year, according to one prominent senior media agency executive. Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer of WPP’s Group M, says broadcast TV networks could face steeper viewership declines next year — especially because networks will not be able to replicate viewership gains made last year.
TV broadcast networks cost-per-thousand viewer prices are still tops among all media in 2013 — with digital in-stream video CPMs higher than cable TV.
A combination of low ratings and a sluggish ad market accounted for the 9% drop in the average price of a 30-second primetime spot on broadcast network TV versus last year’s first quarter. The typical price early this year fell to $102,983, according to an analysis by media agency TargetCast tcm of data supplied by research firm NetCosts. That’s a change from the last three years, when prices rose or were mostly flat.
Network executives take a ‘What me worry?’ approach despite their medium’s changing landscape. Having consumed roughly two dozen network pilots slotted for the fall, one overarching attribute appears to be how much the current crop of shows resembles the last one, and the one before that.
More than half of the 17 new shows launched this fall on the Big Four networks have been given full-season orders, even with just one bona fide hit. NBC’s “Revolution” has been a smash as the most-watched drama in the 18-to-4demo, with a 5.4 average by one metric.
In a season with relatively few new series, comedy is the proportionately dominant mode, a priority for several of the broadcast networks in rebuilding mode, particularly NBC.
Looking at the last third of the TV 2011-12 season — over a broader weeklong viewing metric — broadcast networks sank in viewership versus a year before. TV cable networks were virtually flat.
Ad-supported cable continues to top the broadcast networks this season by large margins. Yet, after recent declines, the Big Four broadcasters collectively are on the rise, albeit barely. Also, while cable ratings are up, its share of the overall market, is basically flat.
TV dramas are losing their allure among networks because they are costly to produce and tough to syndicate. So don’t be surprised if much of the slate next fall is devoted to comedy and reality shows.
Network program ratings may be getting smaller, and cable ratings may be getting bigger, but programs from the broadcast networks still were dominant this past season. A TVB analysis of Nielsen data says broadcast shows accounted for 89 of the top 100 shows when it came to 18-49 viewers, and 93 of the top 100 shows among viewers 25-54.
TV network anchors rushed to Joplin, Mo. Sunday night to cover the devastating tornado that killed at least 89 people.
The 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan that sent cable news networks’ ratings skyrocketing — and tossed CNN back in that ratings race at least temporarily — also served as a potent reminder of the power of broadcast television.
For the past several years, many broadcast network executives have looked at the ratings for their 10 p.m. shows and lamented that it has become impossible to build a true, breakout hit at that hour anymore.
As broadcast network executives were leaving for their holiday destinations last week, most of them were certainly glad to get away, and not only because of the dreary wet Los Angeles weather. The broadcast networks had little to cheer about this fall, which failed to produce breakout hits of the size of Modern Family or Glee a year ago. Here are some notes on the fall season, evaluation of the performance of the individual networks and a look ahead at midseason.
Cable networks have been challenging broadcasters’ hold on TV viewers for years, but the big networks’ lackluster fall is proof of a new parity. Nielsen figures show the Big 4 and basic cable gained 1% in 2010 as overall viewing continues to rise to a record 34 hours a week. But the fall season has been less kind: Fox is down 15% and ABC is off 5%, offsetting smaller gains by CBS and NBC.
A feisty Eric Schmidt fired back at the major broadcast networks over their reluctance to allow their content to be accessed via Google TV, implying that the execs simply don’t get the concept of Web-enabled television — and that fear was driving their decisions.