Cable networks continued to be watched in a majority of households by a wide margin during the second quarter,
although the segment’s growth was flat from year to year.
Cable’s household share during second quarter 2012 was 67%, on par with numbers from second-quarter 2011,
according to Nielsen. While the category didn’t generate an increase, the mark continues cable’s decade-long run
without suffering a household ratings decline.
The big four broadcast networks’ household share also kept steady at 33% compared to last year. The broadcast
networks’ share has dropped precipitously over the past decade from 44% in 2002 to its current level.
TV’s sluggish performance could be attributed in part to an overall drop in total viewing hours among TV
watchers. According to Turner Broadcasting System research, the number of total weekly viewing hours dropped
to 32.7 in second-quarter 2012, compared to 33 hours during the same period in 2011. Weekly viewing for ad-supported
cable networks remained relatively flat at 16.5 hours.
Overall, primetime TV viewing also fell slightly to 8.2 hours per week during the second quarter, compared to 8.3 hours during Q2 2010. Cable
viewers watched their favorite shows for the same average amount — 4.1 hours per week — as they did during the same period last year.
USA CONTINUES PRIMETIME REIGN
USA Network defended its primetime quarterly ratings
crown for the 24th consecutive time in 2012, besting History
for the top spot among all entertainment-based cable
networks, according to a Turner Research analysis of
Nielsen data. (USA’s quarterly ratings streak does not take
into account sports network ESPN’s six consecutive years
of football-fueled fourth-quarter wins, or ad-free Disney
Channel’s third-quarter 2007 win.)
USA’s 2.7 million viewer tally for the period of March 26
to June 24 was 12% below the same period last year — one
of six top-10 networks to post year-to-year second-quarter
declines, according to Nielsen.
History (2.5 million, up 15%); ESPN (1.9 million, 19%);
TBS (1.7 million, 36%) and A&E Network (1.5 million, up
6%) posted gains among the top 10 most watched networks.
Nickelodeon also continued its dominant quarterly ratings
run, posting a whopping 69th consecutive quarterly
win over a 24-hour basis, although its 1.7 million viewer
average was down 25% from second quarter 2011. Disney
finished second, dropping 7% of its audience from last year
to post a 1.5 million viewer average.
SLOW NEWS QUARTER
The cable news category took it on the chin during the second quarter. All
four major news services posted losses during the period of March 26 to
June 24 despite a very active news cycle due to the upcoming presidential
elections, according to a Turner Research analysis of Nielsen data. Turner
services CNN and HLN were the biggest losers, both falling 34% behind
second-quarter 2011 numbers.
CNN in particular continued its ratings falloff, marking the second
straight quarter in 2012 in which it has suffered a decline. The network’s
primetime continued to suffer in the second quarter of 2012, sinking to
its lowest delivery since 1991 (as far back as data is available), according
to Nielsen data.
The cable network hit audience lows for both weekdays (468,000 total
viewers) and Monday through Sunday primetime (446,000 total viewers),
and counted its lowest delivery in total day since 2000 (319,000 total viewers),
according to Nielsen.
All of CNN’s primetime shows posted losses year-over-year: Erin Burnett
OutFront was down 33% in total viewers and 45% among adults 25 to 54,
compared to a year ago when John King USA was in the timeslot. Anderson Cooper 360 at 8 p.m. was down 19% with total
viewers and 23% with the so-called news demo from what In the Arena With Eliot Spitzer did a year ago, while Piers
Morgan Tonight declined 27% among total viewers and 32% among adults 25 to 54, according to Broadcasting & Cable.
As for the rest of the category, a lack of major breaking news compared to second quarter 2011 — which featured the
Japan tsunami tragedy, among other stories — as well as a summer lull in the 2012 presidential election race may have
contributed to the declines.
“I think [news-network ratings will] probably trend down a little bit in the summer,” Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly
told Multichannel News in an interview earlier this year. “Once the nominee for the Republican Party gets established (former
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney) … you can’t really do much the months between May and September. But once the
conventions start and then the fur really starts to roll, I think people will be engaged next fall in the election.”
Viewers flocked back to veteran History and TNT shows
during second-quarter 2012. The two networks accounted
for the top five most-watched returning series during the
quarter, led by History’s popular reality series Pawn Stars.
Meanwhile, J.R. and the Ewing clan showed they can
still draw eyeballs as TNT’s revision of the classic 1980s
drama series Dallas finished the quarter as the most
watched new series during the period, according to