U.S. Basic Cable / Satellite channels are experiencing powerful headwinds from three sources:
- Households Using Television (HUTS) are in decline as viewers seek their entertainment from online platforms.
- The Distribution footprints of channels are shrinking as viewers cut the cord or switch to skinny bundles.
- And Ratings for the channels are falling as the audience shifts to online viewing.
My valued colleague, Byron Media’s Dr John Morse shared key data for a selection of networks that commission Unscripted programs, ranging from curated documentaries to reality TV.
- In this series of posts, John and myself will present and comment on the latest data.
- The next post covers the channels’ lost revenues from cord-cutting, -shaving and -nevers.
- We will conclude with John’s analysis of the available viewing data for SVOD services like Netflix.
- Houses Using Television (HUTS) are down approx 5% in Broadcast and Cable for this season compared to last.
Following are the year-to-year changes in the Distribution footprints of U.S. advertiser-supported cab/sat channels.
- HBO, Showtime and other PayTV channels that aren’t advertiser-supported are not covered.
- And neither are subscription online services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix.
|Network||October 2017||October 2018|| (‘000)
|NAT GEO CHANNEL||89,763||88,672||-1,091||-1.2%|
|NAT GEO WILD||59,361||60,607||1,246||2.1%|
Source: Nielsen Cable UEs October 2018
- The average year-to-year loss for this basket of channels is 2.5 million subscribers or -3.2%. That’s far from an exodus but it is a steady erosion.
- Digital channels are the only two gainers in homes reached: Smithsonian (+10%) & Nat Geo Wild (+2,1%).
- Digi-nets are also among the biggest losers of subscribers: Examples are Science (-8.1%) and FYI (-7.3%).
- Unscripted powerhouses are among the distribution losers, including Discovery (-3.0 Mn), TLC (-3.3 Mn) and History (-1.9 Mn).
- Even industry giants in Sports and News are far from immune:
- ESPN, commissioner of the 30 for 30 Sports-themed documentary series lost 1.7 Mn households.
- Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel lost 2.8 Mn HH (-3.1%).
- Most channels are losing revenues from advertisers as well as subscribers:
- Networks are cutting back on programming, their largest expense area.
- That’s why U.S. producers are finding the road much harder to get to greenlight, and that the fewer hours commissioned are on less favorable terms.
Byron Media reports a sampling of the largest skinny packages based upon subscriptions:
Sling TV 2,400,000
YouTube TV 410,000
DirecTV Now 2,200,000
Fubo TV 325,000
Hulu Live 1,100,000
PlayStation Vue 745,000
- The estimated loss of subscription revenues in 2018 for a basket of channels that commission documentaries and factual entertainment.
- Changes in prime time ratings for factual channels.
LISTEN TO MY PODCASTS
- Program Development & Pitching Trends with veteran producer Michael Hoff
- The Obamas’ Output Deal With Netflix. Takeaways for Producers with StoryCentric’s Ed Hersh
- THE CLEANERS An Anti-Case Study From Berlin and Sundance with Christian Beetz
- The Development History of NATIVE AMERICA, a $3-4 million Signature PBS Series with Gary Glassman
My coverage in podcasts and posts of trends in measuring digital engagement in video content is sponsored by Parrot Analytics.
- How to Measure and Value Audiences for Unscripted Programs with Parrot Analytics’ Courtney William
- Trends in How Americans View, Measure and Value Programs with Byron Media’s Dr John Morse
- Global Demand for Food Programs with Parrot Analytics’ Insights Director Karina Dixon
And read more about John Morse and Byron Media here.
Updated August 2018
Original analysis and coverage from DocumentaryBusiness.com
95+ pages, with charts and links