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Viewers Just Can’t Get Enough Cable

The more things change in TV land,
the more they seem to stay the same.

With all of the talk about consumers cutting the
cord with cable and viewers flocking to the Web
to see their favorite shows or to sample other content,
cable shows continue to draw viewers to the television in
record numbers.

Viewers during second-quarter 2010 averaged 17 hours per
person per week, the highest average for the period ever, according
to Turner Research.

Meanwhile, more than 10.2 billion videos were
streamed in the U.S. in June 2010 alone — a 1.3%
increase from the number of streams in June 2009
and nearly a 4% jump from the previous month’s
figures, according to Nielsen.

While user-generated video from YouTube accounted
for the lion’s share of those streams, the
cable and broadcast network-supported Hulu online
service generated nearly 600 million video
views last month, mostly episodes from cable and
broadcast network shows.

The average hours spent viewing cable programming
shows consumers are still choosing to watch
quality cable programming on the boob tube. Want more
proof? Look at some of the ratings figures generated by cable
shows thus far through July.

TNT’s drama skein Rizzoli & Isles debuted with the highest
audience ever for an ad-supported series, drawing a whopping
7.6 million viewers. The cop series about two female friends,
one a detective and the other a medical examiner, outpaced
series premieres of such shows as The Closer, Burn Notice and
Monk — all of which premiered prior to the launch of Hulu and
before the explosion of streamed full-length show episodes on
cable-based websites.

Rizzoli & Isles’ second episode performed nearly as well, averaging
7.2 million viewers, beating its lead-in hit series The
, which itself drew an impressive 6.9 million viewers in
its sixth season.

Over at A&E Network, new original scripted drama series
The Glades drew a network record 3.6 million
viewers to its July 11 season premiere. The
July 13 debut of USA Network’s Covert Affairs averaged
4.9 million viewers, topping its lead-in —
the sophomore season premiere of White Collar
— and beating out Rizzoli & Isles among the key
adult 18-to-49 demo.

It’s clear viewers, particularly teens and collegeage,
techno-savvy young adults, are choosing to
time-shift cable television programming by streaming
content via the Web and mobile phones, or recording
shows on their DVRs.

Other companies, like mail-order DVD provider
Netf lix and even gaming consoles Xbox and
PS3, also provide opportunities for consumers to watch cable
shows without the need for cable.

Still, despite cable’s online competition and the uncertain
economic climate, consumers this summer aren’t pulling the
plug on their favorite cable shows.

They’re enjoying cable fare the best way: in the cool comfort
of their own homes, on their high-definition TV sets.

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.