C3 Story: Down But Better for Broadcasters

Broadcast and cable viewing was down during December in the measurement that counts most, C3 commercial ratings, but not as much as earlier in the season.

In a new report, analyst Benjamin Swinburne of Morgan Stanley analyzed network performance using C3, which isn’t available until weeks after shows air and after the overnight ratings have been digested. C3 is the measurement media on which deals are based, and analysts figure it most closely predicts ad revenue trends.

Overall, broadcast primetime ratings were down 2% in December among adults 18-49, a big improvement over the first two months of the TV season. C3 ratings were down 8% in October and 4% in November. Season to date, the broadcasters are down 5%, according to Swinburne.

The ratings of the top 40 cable networks were down 4% in primetime among adults 18-49 in December.

The CW was the best performer in December among the broadcasters, with a 15% increase in ratings. NBC was up 11% and Univision grew 5%. Fox showed the biggest drop, down 20%, while CBS was down 10% and ABC was down 20%.

Among the cable network groups, AMC Networks was up 12% thanks to gains at AMC and WE tv. Discovery’s networks were up 5%, led by gains at OWN, ID, Animal Planet and TLC that offset some weakness at Discovery Channel. Time Warner’s channels were up 1% with gains at TNT, HLN and CNN.

NBCUniversal’s cable networks were down 14% because of declines at Syfy and USA. News Corp.’s cable networks were down 10%, with Fox News off 40%. Scripps Networks Interactive had a 7% decline with Food Network dropping.

Viacom was down 4% with BET gaining, but Spike and Comedy Central were down. Viacom’s Nickelodeon was down 6%. Swinburne said he did not have C3 data for the 12-34 year old demo MTV sells against, but MTV’s live ratings in the demo were own 5%.

Disney’s cable ratings were down 1%, with ESPN off 4%.

Despite the overall decline in ratings, Swinburne sees the industry as “attractive” for investors.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.