Networks Can Only Berate Themselves

Don't blame the DVR. That's one take-away from analyses of recent ratings weakness for broadcast television networks.

Prime-time ratings at the four major broadcast networks are down a combined 9% among viewers in the 18-to-49 age bracket most coveted by advertisers since the season began Sept. 24, according to Nielsen. Walt Disney's ABC is down 7%, CBS is down 18% and News Corp's Fox is down 26%. Only Comcast-owned NBC is up, at 23%. Media executives, including CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves and Disney CEO Robert Iger, have attributed at least some of that to delayed viewing, advocating that ratings based on program viewership up to seven days out (known as C7) be made the advertising-industry standard, as opposed to the current three (known as C3). But ratings including seven days show similar drops in viewing, albeit not by the same extent for every network. And while DVR penetration is steadily expanding, there has been little change in the amount of programming being watched at a later date and in the amount of commercial avoidance, according to Janney Capital Markets, suggesting other factors are at work – including a lack of appealing new programming. Much of the broadcast viewership decline has been absorbed by cable networks in recent weeks suggesting most of the audience is still there to be had.


Networks Can Only Berate Themselves