Cable TV programmers experienced watershed erosion of their audiences in 2014, with primetime L+7 ratings for adults 18-49 dropping 8 percent across networks, according to Nielsen.
The research company says 18 of the top 25 cable channels lost audience relative to 2013, with USA Network, Disney Channel and A&E experiencing audience declines of more than 20 percent.
ESPN, which finished atop the ratings pack again, was a notable exception, growing its total primetime audience by 5 percent overall and 2 percent in the key 18-49 demo. ESPN, HBO and VH1 were the only networks to grow their 18-49 audience in primetime measuring on-demand usage up to seven days after initial broadcast (L+7).
The debate, of course, continues as to how much of this sudden, stark decline is attributable to migration to SVOD platforms.
Bernstein Research's Todd Juenger continues to beat the drum that the networks have killed their golden goose by over-syndicating their programs to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
"Audiences for ad-supported TV are moving, quickly, to non-ad-supported platforms; right at the time when brand-building advertising opportunities on the Internet are, rapidly, getting bigger and better," the analyst wrote earlier this month.
Top 40 cable networks in 2014 vs. 2013. (Source: Nielsen)
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