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Turner Says While 2015 Ratings Declined, Viewing Was Up

Though ratings were down for most of the top cable networks, Turner Broadcasting says that TV viewing across the industry showed healthy gains in 2015.

When viewing done on devices not measured as part of the ratings are included—screens including subscription video on demand, PC and mobile—Turner, as part of a year-end review, says viewing among the adults 18-49 networks crave was up 3% industry wide.

Also up 3% was viewing among 18-34-year-olds. Viewing by those 50 and older was up 4%.

“People are not spending less time with professionally produced video content,” said Howard Shimmel, chief research officer for Turner.

Shimmel says he cobbles together numbers from Nielsen, comScore, Rentrak and Omniture to get a picture of who’s watching Turner programming.

“While we today lack a comprehensive, cross-platform service that measures television, digital and mobile in an integrated fashion, we’re closer to the syndicated solution now than we’ve ever been,” said Shimmel. “We are hopeful with both Nielsen’s Total Audience service and the potential of the comScore/Rentrak merger."

Looking the ratings as 2015 closes,Turner’s figures show eight of the top 10 networks down for 2015 among adults 18-49 in primetime, including ESPN, which was No. 1. The gainers using L7 ratings in the top 10 were AMC, up 10% and Discovery, up 2%. The biggest drop was posted by History, which was down 25%

Only one of the next 10 most-viewed networks among adults 18-49 was up, and that was HGTV.

In terms of ratings, some of Turner’s networks were down including TBS, the number two rated network, which was down 8% from last year, TNT, which dropped 12% and truTV, down 20%.

While the ratings are down Shimmel said that when digital, on-demand and mobile viewing was factored in, the Turner portfolio was essentially flat. Turner says it programs account for nearly 12% of all set-top VOD transactions for the year so far, and their share is up 13% from a year ago.

Turner’s Adult Swim, the top network among younger adults, was down 4% among 18 to 34-year-olds. With Adult Swim and TBS, Turner says it has two of the top four cable networks with millennials.

Among the major kids networks, Turner’s Cartoon was the only one to post gains over their entire programming day. Cartoon was up 4% among kids 2-11 and up 5% in kids 6-11. Nickelodeon was down 22% among kids 2-11 and Disney Channel was down 17%.

Turner says that when you look at the “sellable day” for the networks, Cartoon is likely to finish the year as the number one ad-supported network in kids 6-11.

CNN was up 22% among adults 18-49 and also grew 22% in the “news demo" of adults 25-54.

"We’re really happy with the strength of our sports programming and news. I think the fact that being able to play in those genres is one thing that sort of protects us from the overall environmental changes,” Shimmel added.

In a post on ESPN’s website, Artie Bulgrin, the sports giant’s senior VP for global research and analytics, says that sports is the leading multiplatform and social genre that is consumed in real time. He said ESPN was the top rated network in primetime 46 times last year, most of any network. “These data continue to prove that live sports have become a priority in the hierarchy of viewing choices—especially during prime time,” Bulgrin said.

Shimmel didn’t disagree. Sports “continues to be a reason for people to subscribe to Time Warner Cable or Comcast, and it does drive people to want to watch live television and offsets what’s going on with time shifting and on demand viewing.”

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.