With all of the news of cord cutting out there, cable is definitely still holding its own: Viewers spent a record 17.2 hours per week watching ad-supported cable networks in 2013, rebounding from a slight dip last year. Meanwhile, the big four networks claimed a combined 7.5 hours, another low.
“With the growth in on-demand viewing, Hulu and Netflix, you’d think there’d be less viewing of cable TV as a whole,” says Turner Broadcasting research chief Jack Wakshlag told USA Today. “But it’s at the highest it’s ever been.”
The gains weren’t shared equally, said the story. “AMC’s The Walking Dead and A&E’s Duck Dynasty ranked among the top 25 of all TV shows and, remarkably, in the top five among the young-adult viewers prized by advertisers. But half of the top cable networks saw prime-time audience declines.”
Highlights from the USA Today story:
–TBS surges. After a seven-year run by USA, TBS reclaimed the top spot in prime time among adults ages 18 to 49, thanks largely to a steady rerun diet of The Big Bang Theory, which remains TV’s top-rated comedy in originals on CBS.
–USA on top. USA was first among all viewers, despite an 8% decline, and while ratings for its own Modern Family reruns are climbing, they’re not approaching Bang levels. Across the full day, Nickelodeon (up 4% from a tough 2012) ranked first.
–‘Dead,’ ‘Dynasty’ rule. Dead’s rise is remarkable: With more than 16 million viewers — including DVR-delayed viewing up to seven days later — it ranks seventh among all shows in prime time but first among young-adult viewers, ahead of NBC’s Sunday Night Football and Big Bang. That helped push AMC, which also scored with the final season of Breaking Bad, up 18% for the year. A&E rose 9% thanks to Dynasty.
–News channels dip. Predictably, after 2012’s superheated election season, prime-time ratings for the major cable news networks are down. Leader Fox News fell 9%, No. 2 MSNBC dropped 28%, and CNN slipped 15% (though it is up a slight 3% across the total programming day).
–History lessons. History ranked fourth for the year, behind only USA, Disney Channel and ESPN. Adult Swim and Disney, both up, tied as the top network among viewers ages 12 to 34, well ahead of ESPN, MTV and Comedy Central, all of which declined.
2013’s top original cable series (viewers in millions)
The Walking Dead (AMC) 16.5
Duck Dynasty (A&E) 13.4
The Bible (History) 13.2
Breaking Bad (AMC) 8.5
Rizzoli & Isles (TNT) 8.3
Sons of Anarchy (FX) 7.3
Major Crimes (TNT) 6.9
Game of Thrones (HBO) 6.4
American Horror Story (FX) 6.1
Longmire (A&E) 6.0
Live plus seven-day viewing for 12/28/12-12/8/13
RBR-TVBR observation: Yes, the numbers of cord cutters are increasing, but with our population also increasing, the numbers are still going up for cable. Many consumers keep cable because of the bundle offerings. They need internet in the home. If it’s not bundled with cable and phone (i.e. the “Triple Play” package), they will be paying big bucks for internet service—so much so it’s more economical to get all three than separately. There are some households that are happy with getting everything over their smartphones, but the screen is small and you can only do so much with it—even with Chromecast sending the image to the TV screen.