C3 ratings, the metric used for much of the buying and selling of TV commercials, fell 7% in January, according to analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson Research.
Broadcast was up 1% in primetime among 18 to 49 years olds because of the timing of NFL playoff games. Cable networks were down 10%.
Nielsen does not release C3 numbers, which reflect the average number of people who watch the commercial minutes within a show live plus three days of delayed viewing, and the networks also prefer to talk about how many people are watching their programming.
But C3 a good indicator of what ad revenue will look like for the industry and for individual network.
Nathanson called the January decline “substantial” and noted it was not a good way to start the year.
“Given the challenged ratings trends we have seen, we remain cautious on the TV advertising market’s ability to grow dollars by offsetting these declines with higher CPM [price] inflation,” Nathanson said.
All of the big cable network programming companies were down in January primetime, A+E Networks was down just 3%. Also declining in single digits were NBCUniversal, Disney, Discovery and AMC Networks.
Viacom was down 17%. While some of Viacom’s networks—MTV and VH1—Nickelodeon were down the most among the 25 most-viewed networks.
MSNBC was the biggest gainer among the top 25 networks. A&E was also up.
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