US Unscripted Networks: How Many Homes Reached? Trends & Takeaways. Debut for the Smithsonian Channel

Here is a July 4 Weekend treat: a snapshot of the estimated distribution universe of a majority of the US cable channels that schedule unscripted programs.

  • The data raises the question: Is there a wave of cord-cutting that is eroding the channels business model?
  • See my Takeaways below.

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Cable Network Universe Estimates
A Selection, July 2014

The column headings are:

Channel / July 2013 Universe / July 2014 Universe / +/- ‘000 / +/- %

FXX (FOX SOCCER) 51,393 73,255 21,862 42.5%
VELOCITY 52,152 58,330 6,178 11.8%
OVATION 43,527 49,328 5,801 13.3%
UP (Gospel Music) 61,401 66,359 4,958 8.1%
Al Jazeera America 48,161 53,104 4,943 10.3%
IFC 69,499 73,109 3,610 5.2%
WE TV 83,028 85,739 2,711 3.3%
COOKING 60,475 62,711 2,236 3.7%
REELZ 66,616 67,722 1,106 1.7%
NAT GEO CHNL 84,520 85,032 512 0.6%
SPORTSMAN 31,879 32,268 389 1.2%
MSNBC 94,782 95,051 269 0.3%
ID 84,319 84,548 229 0.3%
DIY 58,724 58,752 28 0.0%
OXYGEN MEDIA 78,321 78,325 4 0.0%
SHOWTIME 27,561 27,551 -10 0.0%
DISCOVERY EN ESPANOL 7,351 7,084 -267 -3.6%
FUSE 72,993 72,605 -388 -0.5%
MTV2 81,115 80,420 -695 -0.9%
LOGO 52,216 51,513 -703 -1.3%
NG WILD 57,692 56,808 -884 -1.5%
CENTRIC 51,952 50,990 -962 -1.9%
TRU TV 91,483 90,406 -1,077 -1.2%
SCIENCE 76,928 75,744 -1,184 -1.5%
BRAVO 94,395 93,128 -1,267 -1.3%
E! 96,632 95,331 -1,301 -1.3%
BET 91,418 90,101 -1,317 -1.4%
BBC-AMERICA 80,355 78,932 -1,423 -1.8%
FX 97,315 95,872 -1,443 -1.5%
H2 68,824 67,366 -1,458 -2.1%
ANIMAL PLANET 96,408 94,819 -1,589 -1.6%
Am. Heroes / MILITARY 62,109 60,502 -1,607 -2.6%
HISTORY 98,375 96,710 -1,665 -1.7%
CNN / HLN 99,458 97,762 -1,696 -1.7%
LIFETIME 98,445 96,742 -1,703 -1.7%
CNN 98,721 97,009 -1,712 -1.7%
A&E 98,535 96,806 -1,729 -1.8%
FOOD NETWORK 99,427 97,668 -1,759 -1.8%
TRAVEL 94,536 92,704 -1,832 -1.9%
SYFY 97,692 95,850 -1,842 -1.9%
SPIKE TV 97,499 95,636 -1,863 -1.9%
HGTV 98,418 96,494 -1,924 -2.0%
DISCOVERY 99,090 97,163 -1,927 -1.9%
CMT 91,401 89,452 -1,949 -2.1%
CNBC 96,431 94,478 -1,953 -2.0%
OWN 83,593 81,629 -1,964 -2.3%
VH1 96,948 94,939 -2,009 -2.1%
TLC 98,072 96,052 -2,020 -2.1%
ESPN 97,985 95,762 -2,223 -2.3%
MTV 97,878 95,539 -2,339 -2.4%
DISCOVERY FIT & HEALTH 48,989 46,400 -2,589 -5.3%
OUTDOOR 39,341 36,587 -2,754 -7.0%
DESTINATION AMERICA 59,903 57,033 -2,870 -4.8%
GAC 63,114 60,192 -2,922 -4.6%
FYI 68,342 65,333 -3,009 -4.4%
SMITHSONIAN 30,811
SUNDANCE 57,210
TOTAL U.S. 114,200 115,800 1,600 1.4%

Source: National Nielsen People Meter

Key Findings

Comparing July 2013 vs. July 2014:

  • Nielsen now projects total wired cable at 67,379,000 homes, down 1,694,000 in the past year (-2.5%).
  • Other measurement services have estimated larger decreases in wired cable.
  • Satellite dish services total 38,077,000, up 2,159,000 from a year ago (+6.0%).
  • Total Cable/Dish services have 103,848,000 homes, up 483,000 (+0.5%).
  • The average cable network lost homes in the past year, having to do with a combination of sample adjustments and wired cable declines.

Smithsonian Channel is a Winner

  • The Smithsonian Channel with 30,811,000 is added to the Nielsen service for the 1st time.
  • Smithsonian is a bastion of quality, curated, entertaining nonfiction docs and specials.
  • Here is coverage by Michael Rose in Huffpo of A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD, a bio doc about Jonas Salk and the race to develop a polio vaccine that features Bill Gates, and that I co-EP’d for Smithsonian and Steeltown Entertainment.

Terrestrial / PBS

  • The total US TV Universe HH Estimate is 115.8 million homes.
  • PBS is a terrestrial network and reaches approximately this footprint.

MY TAKEAWAYS Cord-cutting

  • I was expecting cord-cutting to make a dent in the Cab/Sat distribution universe.
  • But I have come to better appreciate the leverage that channels enjoy with operators.
  • The operators are determined to lower costs as their programming margins shrink, but their overall profitability is sustained by DSL/telephone services.
  • The channels are increasingly concentrated in a handful of owners, e.g. Disney, Fox, VIACOM, COMCAST, and who offer the operators a take-it-or-leave it big package of networks.
  • The operators can’t drop under-performing or duplicative ‘me-too’ channels without threatening their carriage of the ‘must have’ programming services from the major content owners.
  • As ever, ‘Content is King!’

Easy Days are Over

  • However, the era of rapid ‘organic growth’ for channels is over and done.
  • Very few channels can expect to add cable systems with lots of new viewers.
  • And because it is the the distribution universe that establishes the scale of the potential viewing audience, dramatic gains in ratings are not in the cards.
  • Programmers are increasingly fighting out a vicious ground game to gain a yard or two from their competitors.

2014-06-27 11.02.23-1

NEXT: Sunnyside of the Doc Takeaways

  • This year, La Rochelle served as a beautiful location for a relaxed and valuable market /conference that was very good for new business.
  • Sunnyside was recently under threat when Sheffield moved to its June slot; but director Yves Jeanneau and his team brought SSD charging back with a renewed purpose that is attracting new delegations.
  • Read my Takeaways in my next post!

2014-06-25 20.34.56