For cable, the lines keep blurring
It has surpassed broadcast in ad dollars and in ratings
December 20, 2012
The story of 2012 for cable was just as much a story for broadcast.
The lines between the two continue to blur, in terms of ratings, ad dollars and viewer perception.
While that line will not disappear entirely in 2013, it will fade even further.
Events that have traditionally aired on broadcast, such as the Bowl Championship Series and Wimbledon, will continue to migrate to cable.
Though broadcast still dominates the top 50 programs of the week, more cable shows will win their timeslots over the Big Four in key demographics, following the lead of programs like A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” and MTV’s “Jersey Shore.”
And for the third time in as many years, cable networks will receive more dollars than broadcast during the upfront, increasing the gap between the two to a record margin.
“Television is becoming more blurred,” says Marc Morse, senior vice president, national broadcast buying, at RJ Palmer.
“Over the past five, 10, 15, 20 years we’ve seen broadcast ratings go down and cable come up. At some point we’ll reach a crossing point, though we’re not there yet. I think less and less they’re being talked about as two different things than one and the same.”
The outlook for cable over the next few years is very cheery, one of the few media with healthy growth prospects coming out of the long recession.
National cable ad spending grew 8 percent this year, according to ZenithOptimedia, nearly double the growth rate for the overall U.S. media economy.
The next three years cable spending will grow at a rate of 7 percent each year, faster than any other major media besides digital.
In 2012 the top five spenders on cable TV were direct response drugs and toiletries, movies, fast food, automobile insurance and wireless telecom providers.
Hot networks in 2012 included History, whose miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys” broke numerous cable records; AMC, whose “The Walking Dead” finished as fall’s top scripted drama on broadcast or cable in adults 18-49; and TBS, which saw big ratings gains thanks to syndicated episodes of “The Big Bang Theory.”
And the Oprah Winfrey Network, which struggled mightily in its first year, has shown promise with 10 straight months of ratings growth in primetime.
“They’re making good strides lately. I think there was a lot of hype and expectations [at launch], and I think they were too high,” Morse says.
“In the last year they have gotten their footing, put on a lot of new original stuff, and [Winfrey] has been more hands on. That’s helped in the ratings.”
Cable was not without disappointments. CNN struggled despite the presidential election, which usually bumps up cable ratings. And Viacom’s networks, Nickelodeon in particular, have major ratings woes.
Heading into 2013, buyers remain concerned about the future of television in general with the rise of the second screen.
More and more people are watching television shows, whether they be broadcast or cable, via new media devices such as tablets and smartphones.
The industry is ill at ease with this change, largely because these viewers are unmeasured and thus cable networks are not getting compensated for them in the same manner that they do for highly rated shows on TV.
Buyers are pushing Nielsen for measurement on these new media devices.
“Down the road there’s going to be a conversation about viewing non-traditionally, viewing on the iPad and other devices, and how to get advertisers the appropriate price for people viewing on those other devices,” Morse says.
Meanwhile networks are increasingly bundling new media rights into their deals with MSOs and sports leagues.
When TBS renewed its deal with Major League Baseball earlier this year, it included streaming rights to games, a new wrinkle.
Tags: 2013, 2013 forecasts, ad spending, broadcast, cable, cable ad spending, cable advertising, cable networks, cable ratings, cable tv ad spending, media, new media, people, ratings, television, tv, viewers
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