Among the top 10 networks, all but one is down from last year. In fact, the top eight suffered year-to-year drops, including several down by double-digit percentages.
Consider this: ESPN is off by 7 percent among adults 18-34, though it still leads with an average 509,000 in primetime.
Second-place Adult Swim has fallen 10 percent, to 389,000 this season. USA’s down a more modest 2 percent, but AMC (off 19 percent) and TBS (off 23 percent) have taken big hits.
And so it is for networks throughout the top 10. Only one, Bravo, is up from last season, and that’s only by 5,000 viewers, climbing from 211,000 to 216,000.
Clearly there’s a trend afoot. So what does it mean?
According to MediaLife, which target media buyers, it’s important to note that ratings are down for networks in other adult demos. The phenomenon is not confined to Millennials, though they’re suffering the biggest drops.
That suggests it’s an institutional issue, and there may be two problems.
One is the plethora of media choices that’s led viewers to eschew television more and more in favor of smartphones, gaming consoles and other new media.
Two is cord cutting or shaving. With many networks seeing slow but steady declines in distribution due to cord cutting, it’s only natural that decreased ratings would follow.
Broadcast Networks Top 20 last week:
Cable TV Top 10 Last Week:
- Top five networks in primetime (18-49s): ESPN, AMC, USA, TBS, Discovery Channel.
- Top five networks in primetime (total viewers): Fox News Channel, ESPN, HGTV, MSNBC, USA.
- Top five total-day networks (total viewers): Fox News Channel, Nickelodeon, HGTV, MSNBC, Adult Swim.
- Top cable news networks in primetime (total viewers): Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, HLN, FBN.