TV Ratings Sag As Cord Cutting Continues To Surge

from the hard-to-have-any-sympathy dept

By all accounts cord cutting continued to set records in 2019, a trend that (despite some baseless claims to the contrary by industry executives) is only expected to accelerate this year. Customers continue to grow tired of paying their local cable TV provider hundreds of dollars per month for giant bundles of channels they don’t watch, paired with some of the worst customer service of any industry in the States (a continued, impressive claim given the banking, airline, and insurance industries exist).

Despite years of the industry claiming cord cutting was “no big deal” or entirely nonexistent, the numbers from last year couldn’t have been any clearer:

The problem is also being clearly reflected by cable TV and broadcast TV ratings. Outside of Fox News, cable TV news viewership continues to slowly but surely erode, with MSNBC losing 3% and CNN losing 9% of their viewers in 2019 (Fox News saw 3% growth). Traditionally well performing networks like USA saw notable viewership declines as high as 18% on the year:

“USA, which was the most watched cable network for almost a decade, slipped another spot from No. 4 last year to No. 5 in total viewers (-18%). In adults 18-49, it remained No. 2 behind Fox News but was down 16%. AMC was down 22% in viewers as its flagship drama The Walking Dead is starting to show its age FX was down 21%, TBS 17% and TNT 15%.

The biggest hits continue to come for channels that focus on kids’ programming, as families continue to flock to on demand content from the likes of Netflix (and now Disney+):

“Disney Channel, a former No. 2 basic cable network, posted the largest year-to-year viewership decline, 30%, to drop to No. 28, with Disney Jr. logging the second biggest year-to-year drop, 25%. Those are linear ratings declines as young viewers flock to the Disney Channel?s app or website to watch its shows.”

Since so many cable TV providers are also broadcasters (Comcast NBC Universal, AT&T Time Warner) it wouldn’t be too hard to keep this trend in check by improving abysmal customer service and actually competing on price. Instead, most cable TV executives continue to push their luck and raise rates, or focus on things only certain to annoy consumers further (like Charter CEO Tom Rutledge’s relentless whining about password sharing). That’s in large part because most of these executives know their monopolies over broadband insulate them from real harm, allowing them to jack up the cost of broadband connections to counter any revenue losses on the TV side of the equation.

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Comments on “TV Ratings Sag As Cord Cutting Continues To Surge”

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Anonymous Coward says:

That’s in large part because most of these executives know their monopolies over broadband insulate them from real harm, allowing them to jack up the cost of broadband connections to counter any revenue losses on the TV side of the equation.

This isn’t a universal problem. I’ve been paying $70/mo for 100/100 internet service for several years. My provider just announced 500/500 at $45/mo and I’m switching to that. 5 times the bandwidth at 64% of the price.

And no, it’s not Comcast 😀 (Comcast wants $75 for 500/500 and an abysmal uptime rating)

Anonymous Coward says:

At least Americans have the option to drop cable and get their TV over-the-air using an antenna. Small-town Canada is rapidly losing that option, as the stations are mostly owned by the originating network; the network is owned by the same companies (such as Bell and Rogers) that own the landline telephone and cable duopoly; and those companies are shutting off the OTA TV transmitters in many communities.

I’m in a small city of a little over 100,000 people in Southeastern Ontario. I can find ten different programmes on-air on the various digital subchannels of the Watertown NY stations (Nielsen market #179, city population 27,000) but can only receive one digital subchannel from any Canadian station. Areas which aren’t on the US border are faring far worse… so any Newfoundland outport that isn’t St. John’s now has no OTA TV at all. And yes, the same duopoly that’s destroying OTA TV in this country also controls wireline and wireless telephony. We’re just sheep to be shorn.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I’ve done just that. I have an antenna and use no other means for tv reception. I don’t watch tv enough to make paying for it a worth while proposition.

The cable industry and telcoms have made their bed. So am quite willing to see how well they sleep in it. I have no desire to pay for tv viewing, especially given the price and the steep jack up of that actual cost once you get the bill with the real price.

If I wish I can watch tv at no cost beyond the price of the electricity to power it all. That beats these high priced packages I have no need for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Growing up as a kid, we had a rotary antenna. Back then there was no Internet, There was cable at back then it was a A/B 2 cable line system. Our neighbors had cable and so I’d watch MTV over there once in a while. Back when it was mostly Music Videos.

These days, I have a nice large directional antenna on my roof. I cut the cord around 10 years ago. A cut it a few years at my old place, and when I got my house, one of the first things I did was mount up the antenna. On the roof looking around me, no one else has an antenna mounted that I can see, and I just laugh and think SUCKERS!!!

These days there’s so much to watch. As a kid even with the rotary antenna, we didn’t get that many channels. Now I’m getting ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, CW, FOX all in HD and 5.1 surround, plus AntennaTV, METV, and some others. It’s all recorded on my Tivo setup. Throw in Netflix, plus my movies on PLEX and I have too much to watch.

It was a little hard at first to cut the cord. All those channels and content. But at the time it was just me and a huge Cable bill and I couldn’t justify it anymore. The prices kept going up. I’d cut something, and it would keep going up and I finally said, screw this, and cut everything but the Internet. Bit Internet-only costs have been shooting up. It’s cheaper to get a dumb bundle, which I still only use the Internet, and still just get my TV from the Antenna as I can DVR it then using their basic cable box for the TV channels I didn’t want from them in the first place. This is how they try to keep you on their service paying for TV you don’t want from them.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: I remember when cable TV started

Part of that is Cable telling the Broadcasters what they were doing.
And since Local broadcasts Were/Are paid for(which isnt free either) They demanded Cable pay for the service, as the Local broadcasters had done, still do.
Which means cable couldnt go Anti-commercial.
But how would Cable make the money? By charging the Consumer.
Which is strange as it could have worked, but the Major corps make more money on the commercials, local and National then anywhere else.
Then the Big, local TV companies Loved it, as now they become National, and can sell adverts Nationally, and for allot more money.. There were Tons of Local/state companies. Ask Ted Turner.

DannyB (profile) says:

The Reason

The reasons TV Ratings sag:

  • nothing worth watching
  • you can’t watch it because there are more commercials than content
  • even after a commercial break, more ads pop out on screen on top of the content

The Ratings Drop is because people quit watching.

The Cord Cutting is because why pay for what isn’t worth watching.

They have only themselves to blame.

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