Cable/Satellite v. Broadcast TV Viewing. Who’s winning?
A question often asked is if more people are now watching cable/satellite network programs than shows carried on the traditional over-the-air broadcast TV networks of ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and CW. About 91% of the nation receives their TV via cable, satellite or some other alternative delivery form, and the majority of cable and satellite systems place broadcast TV channels side-by-side cable/satellite network channels. This pretty much levels the playing field on accessibility of viewers to choose between any program on any of the networks. Broadcast TV has long held the upper hand by shear legacy since they’ve been established for decades verses any of the newer cable/satellite networks. But that advantage is slipping away as subsequent generations of viewers grow up with the current vast selection of TV channels.
To give an idea of how mass viewing patterns are slowly shifting towards cable/satellite network programs let’s take a look at a recent week of national TV ratings. Here’s a little sample of the Nielsen week of 11/30 – 12/06.
# 1 Primetime program: Monday Night Football Patriots v. Saints on ESPN with an 8.5 rating of Adults 18 – 49, or 21.4 million adults overall.
#2 Primetime program: Sunday Night Football Cardinals v. Vikings on NBC-TV with a 7.8 rating of Adults 18 – 49 or 20.89 million viewers.
Sporting events are good at drawing large numbers of viewers so we’ll look at the prime time results for Friday December 4th with no significant sports broadcast. That night included the final episode of the USA Network program ‘Monk.’ That episode, The End Part 2, won the highest overall numbers on record for a drama program on a cable/satellite network. Monk scored a 2.4 rating Adults 18 – 49 with 9.44 million overall viewers beating ‘Medium’ on CBS, ‘Dateline’ on NBC, doubling the audience of ‘Ugly Betty’ on ABC and tripling the viewership of ‘Dollhouse’ on FOX.
For now, the Broadcast TV networks are still reigning in overall weekly viewership. The winners of this Nielsen week in order were: FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN, Univision and USA Network. Highlighting some other top programs of the week on a variety of networks:
- ABC’s ‘Desperate Housewives’ with a 4.9 rating and 14.86 million Adults 18 – 49
- FOX’s ‘House’ with a 4.8 rating and 13.25 million Adults 18 – 49
- ABC’s college football coverage of Texas v. Nebraska with a 4.0 rating and 12.69 million Adults 18 – 49
- CBS’s ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ with a 3.8 rating and 10.59 million Adult viewers 18 – 49
- FX’s ‘Sons of Anarchy’ season finale with a 2.3 rating and 4.33 million Adults 18-49
- USA Network’s ‘White Collar’ with a 1.6 rating and 5.55 million Adults 18 – 49
- Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’ with a 1.5 rating and 3.00 million Adults 18 – 49
Another way of answering this question about the trend of TV viewership is how the Broadcast TV networks over the years have bought ownership of many cable/satellite network channels. For example, NBC Universal owns USA Network and Bravo while ABC owns ESPN. That is a subject of its own blog post to further illustrate how the landscape of network ownership reflects the momentum of TV viewing.