‘Duck Dynasty,’ USA Head Cable’s Summer Flock

Cable Extends Nielsen Lead over Big Four

It’s been a ducky summer for ad-supported cable networks, which posted a five-point increase in household share while the four combined broadcast networks experienced a fivepoint dip compared with a year ago.

Cable shows are now taking up four of the average five hours per day that consumers spend watching broadcast and ad-supported cable TV, Turner Broadcasting System chief research officer Jack Wakshlag said.

“This is a continuation of a trend that has been happening for years,” he said. “Ten years ago, the split was 60% broadcast and 40% cable. Now the trend is 80% cable and 20% broadcast. Every four years, you see a little bump for the broadcasters due to the Olympics, but then the trend keeps moving back toward more cable viewing.”

Broadcast ratings are down from a year ago: Collectively, Big Four broadcasters ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC experienced a weighted 17% drop in total household ratings, while ad-supported cable household ratings were up 2% from a year ago, according to data from Turner.


Among viewers 18-25, broadcast ratings were off 25% from 2012 and cable ratings among that group were down 1%, suggesting that younger viewers are increasingly choosing alternative delivery methods to watch video, Wakshlag said.

“Traditional TV is still in a good place,” he said. “OTT is happening. There is no doubt about it. But it’s not at the expense of traditional TV — yet.”

This summer was the second-best one for TV viewing ever, Wakshlag said, and last year was the best.

Five years ago, the average U.S. consumer watched an average of 31.7 hours of TV a week. Today, that number stands at 33 hours.

Broadcast viewing is down almost 9% from a year ago, while cable viewing is up a little more than 2% over 2012 totals. An exception to broadcast’s slide is NBCUniversal’s Spanish-language network Telemundo, which experienced a 28% lift in primetime viewers aged 2-plus compared to a year ago.

Among original cable series, A&E’s Duck Dynasty was a clear winner, averaging 11.7 million viewers 2-plus in the period (which began May 25); followed by TNT’s Rizzoli & Isles with an average of 7.6 million viewers, Major Crimes with 6.5 million and Falling Skies with 5.6 million. History’s Pawn Stars came in fifth with an average of 5.4 million viewers.

When it comes to the coveted 18-49 flock, Duck Dynasty was on top with an average of 6.3 million viewers. AMC’s Breaking Bad, approaching the end of its run, was second with 3.3 million viewers; VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Atlanta was third, with almost 2.7 million viewers; TNT’s Falling Skies fourth, with almost 2.6 million viewers; and VH1’s T.I. and Tiny rounded out the top five with almost 2.4 million viewers.

For the eighth consecutive year, USA Network was the No. 1 network on ad-supported cable. It’s home to four of the top 10 scripted shows on cable, including Burn Notice, which is in its last season, and newcomer Graceland.

For the first time since it expanded to the 9 p.m. hour in 2011, Adult Swim was tops among basic-cable networks for primetime delivery of adults 18-34 and men 18-34.

Disney Channel continued its lead in the total-day race with kids, luring in 1.07 million viewers 2-11 compared with Nickelodeon’s 1.05 million. Some 555,000 kids watched Cartoon Network on a total-day basis this summer.

For the second year in a row, ABC Family came out as cable’s top network in primetime with women 18-34. The network’s Pretty Little Liars ranked as the No. 1 series with women 12-34 and cable’s top series among women 18-34. Switched at Birth, Twisted, Baby Daddy and Melissa & Joey all placed No. 1 in core measures during in their cable time periods.


After a dismal ratings performance the last couple of years, CNN appears to making headway again with Jeff Zucker at the helm. Strong performances from New Day, The Lead With Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper 360 and Inside Man gave the news network a double-digit lift in primetime and total day compared to last summer.

Thanks to interest in the George Zimmerman case, HLN also posted a 29% jump in ratings in the last three months compared to a year ago. MSNBC’s ratings plunged 22% over year ago totals drawing an average 533,000 viewers in the summer months. Fox News Channel continued to dominate the cable news category, nabbing 1.6 million viewers 2-plus. That was down 5% from the year earlier period, though. Still, it was the seventh highest-rated network among ad-supported cable channels.

“This is a long-term pattern where cable is gaining and broadcast is losing,” Wakshlag said. “For years, the carpets rolled up in the summer and people didn’t watch TV but we realized a long time ago that wasn’t necessarily the case and we have been making strides ever since. We knew there was a market to be had. At the end of the day, it’s all about good shows being promoted well.”


Ad-supported cable networks grew their share of TV viewership by five points this summer, continuing a longstanding trend.