“Live-plus-same-day” channel viewing data published recently by media research firm Nielsen underscores the impact of cord-cutters on the U.S. cable industry in which 26 of the top 35 cable channels attracted lower average primetime audiences in 2015 compared with 2014. As a media analyst with MoffettNathanson commented that this year’s statistics depict a “multiyear” trend in which “the world is moving to on-demand viewing,” players in the cable industry that Nielsen’s findings only show half of the picture in omitting any measurement of online cable channel consumption through mobile devices, PCs, and other alternative viewing platforms.
According to Nielsen, only three of the top 25 cable networks (AMC, HGTV and Investigation Discovery) demonstrating year-over-year primetime ratings growth between 2014 and 2015. Among the remaining networks in the top 25, the average rate of viewership decline was 12%, and seven of those networks experienced a 20% drop in primetime viewership.
While the Nielsen data also covers programming accessed through digital video recorders up to seven days after their air date, the ratings currently do not include programs that are accessed through online services. Nielsen is expected to remedy that problem next year when it launches its new Total Audience measurement system, which accounts for cable channel viewing through alternative services and devices. Maintaining that, “when we add in the [video on demand] and live streaming numbers to our linear TV data, we’re getting double the live contribution,” one cable network executive declared: “we’re very interested in Total Audience from the standpoint of how it should help us get a clearer and more accurate view of how viewers are actually consuming our content—and the ads that run in and around that content.”