Monday, March 16, 2015

Primetime ratings continue decline

The February C3 ratings averages (live + 3 days), the current advertising standard, showed a 12% decline for broadcast networks, and a 11% decline for cable networks.  In fact, only 3 of the networks measured showed an increase over their ratings for February 2014 - HGTV, Discovery, and TBS.

While the article indicated that Primetime TV ratings have seen "double digit" declines in each of the last five months, the situation isn't quite as bad as that suggests.  Looking deeper shows that the ratings since last September have been consistently down - that percentage decline is based on a comparison with the ratings for the same month the year before.  So in terms of the actual ratings, those aren't down by a third or more. It's still not good news for TV networks.

What is a more troubling indicator, following up on previous posts (here and here), is the fact that the decline over the previous year has been consistent, and its been so for both broadcast and cable networks.  That's indicative of a systemic structural change - one more likely based on audience behaviors than network programming efforts.  In the long term, that means trouble for an industry that is so heavily reliant on getting viewers for advertising.

In looking at the pattern of consistent declines, media analyst Michael Nathanson commented:
“It’s clear the downward spiral in TV ratings continues with no end in sight..." and that while changes in the ratings process might account for some overall change, “we believe these terrible ratings trends are also indicative of changing viewership habits.”
Source: TV ratings see double-digit declines for fifth straight month, New York Post

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