What’s growing in the era of cord cutting: Broadcast
Yes, really, though the median cable network lost 2.3 percent of its subscribers
March 1, 2017
In the era of cord cutting, will people pull out the rabbit ears and migrate back to broadcast TV, which has been seeing viewers flee to cable for more than a decade?
Well, stranger things have happened. And at a time when cable networks’ penetration is dropping, broadcast is seeing a corresponding boost.
That has not, as of yet, led to a rebound for broadcast ratings. But it’s an interesting trend to note as media researchers try to make sense of the numbers in these changing times.
The most recent round of Nielsen cable network universe estimates, released Monday, show that the median cable network lost 2.3 percent of its subscribers, a rate very slightly higher than the previous two months though not a record high.
Pivotal Research Group senior research analyst Brian Wieser also noted that the broadcast universe grew about 1.7 percent compared to the previous year.
He says broadcast networks’ penetration increases as the number of households rise, because any TV can pick up broadcast channels. So even if those new TV households don’t get cable, they can watch broadcast.
“This growth in penetration provides support to viewing levels at those [broadcast] networks, at least to the extent that viewing arrives at there by default when broadcast-only homes choose to watch linear TV,” he says.
Essentially, they have no other choice than to view broadcast if they want to watch TV.
Ratings remain on downward trend
As of now, there’s no indication that more access to broadcast is bringing viewers back to the medium.
Ratings have been falling for years, reflecting the plethora of entertainment choices people now have, ranging from social media to game consoles to digital video.
But broadcast still has one major advantage over cable, and that’s its price. Save for a minor one-time investment in an antenna, broadcast is free.
ESPN and ESPN2 continued to drop, both by 3.6 percent.
There were a handful of networks that actually gained subscribers – 17 of 117 measured by Nielsen.
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