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Factual Channels Continue to Lose Distribution & Revenues. Part 1: A Snapshot with Byron Media’s Dr John Morse

U.S. Basic Cable / Satellite channels are experiencing powerful headwinds from three sources:

  • Households Using Television (HUTS) are in decline as viewers seek their entertainment from online platforms.
  • The Distribution footprints of channels are shrinking as viewers cut the cord or switch to skinny bundles.
  • And Ratings for the channels are falling as the audience shifts to online viewing.

Latest Research

My valued colleague, Byron Media’s Dr John Morse shared key data for a selection of networks that commission Unscripted programs, ranging from curated documentaries to reality TV.

  • In this series of posts, John and myself will present and comment on the latest data.
  • The next post covers the channels’ lost revenues from cord-cutting, -shaving and -nevers.
  • We will conclude with John’s analysis of the available viewing data for SVOD services like Netflix.

HUTS

  • Houses Using Television (HUTS) are down approx 5% in Broadcast and Cable for this season compared to last.

DISTRIBUTION

Following are the year-to-year changes in the Distribution footprints of U.S. advertiser-supported cab/sat channels.

  • HBO, Showtime and other PayTV channels that aren’t advertiser-supported are not covered.
  • And neither are subscription online services like Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix
Universe Estimate
(Households ‘000)
NetworkOctober 2017October 2018 (‘000)
Change
%
Change
A&E90,46588,541-1,924-2.1%
AMERICAN HEROES52,76248,840-3,922-7.4%
ANIMAL PLANET88,62484,919-3,705-4.2%
BBC-AMERICA81,38180,759-622-0.8%
CNN92,17190,112-2,059-2.2%
COOKING63,31659,805-3,511-5.5%
DESTINATION AMERICA49,88845,730-4,158-8.3%
DISCOVERY91,37888,347-3,031-3.3%
DISCOVERY LIFE47,29742,943-4,354-9.2%
DIY57,07753,979-3,098-5.4%
ESPN87,52385,835-1,688-1.9%
FOOD93,34590,734-2,611-2.8%
FOX NEWS 89,42086,670-2,750-3.1%
FYI57,98453,740-4,244-7.3%
HGTV91,41489,471-1,943-2.1%
HISTORY91,04089,158-1,882-2.1%
ID84,99781,913-3,084-3.6%
LOGO47,62742,631-4,996-10.5%
MSNBC89,53286,650-2,882-3.2%
MTV86,63584,559-2,076-2.4%
NAT GEO CHANNEL89,76388,672-1,091-1.2%
NAT GEO WILD59,36160,6071,2462.1%
OWN: OPRAH77,23274,254-2,978-3.9%
OUTDOOR36,87934,551-2,328-6.3%
OVATION46,68145,248-1,433-3.1%
OXYGEN 74,78571,891-2,894-3.9%
REELZ63,97060,840-3,130-4.9%
SCIENCE65,64060,351-5,289-8.1%
SMITHSONIAN36,15239,7573,60510.0%
SYFY90,04587,612-2,433-2.7%
TLC89,74086,433-3,307-3.7%
TRAVEL CHANNEL83,73282,866-866-1.0%
TRU TV87,27185,530-1,741-2.0%
VELOCITY73,63173,262-369-0.5%
VH187,17085,277-1,893-2.2%
VICELAND69,26366,618-2,645-3.8%
WEATHER CHANNEL82,67678,650-4,026-4.9%
WETV86,95184,992-1,959-2.3%

Source: Nielsen Cable UEs October 2018

Takeaways

  • The average year-to-year loss for this basket of channels is 2.5 million subscribers or -3.2%. That’s far from an exodus but it is a steady erosion.
  • Digital channels are the only two gainers in homes reached: Smithsonian (+10%) & Nat Geo Wild (+2,1%).
  • Digi-nets are also among the biggest losers of subscribers: Examples are Science (-8.1%) and FYI (-7.3%).
  • Unscripted powerhouses are among the distribution losers, including Discovery (-3.0 Mn), TLC (-3.3 Mn) and History (-1.9 Mn).
  • Even industry giants in Sports and News are far from immune:
    • ESPN, commissioner of the 30 for 30 Sports-themed documentary series lost 1.7 Mn households.
    • Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel lost 2.8 Mn HH (-3.1%).
  • Most channels are losing revenues from advertisers as well as subscribers:
    • Networks are cutting back on programming, their largest expense area.
    • That’s why U.S. producers are finding the road much harder to get to greenlight, and that the fewer hours commissioned are on less favorable terms.

Skinny Bundles

Byron Media reports a sampling of the largest skinny packages based upon subscriptions:

Sling TV 2,400,000
YouTube TV 410,000
DirecTV Now 2,200,000
Fubo TV 325,000
Hulu Live 1,100,000
Philo 150,000
PlayStation Vue 745,000
Other 500,000

Next Posts

  • The estimated loss of subscription revenues in 2018 for a basket of channels that commission documentaries and factual entertainment.
  • Changes in prime time ratings for factual channels.

LISTEN TO MY PODCASTS

My coverage in podcasts and posts of trends in measuring digital engagement in video content is sponsored by Parrot Analytics.

And read more about John Morse and Byron Media here.


Updated August 2018

Original analysis and coverage from DocumentaryBusiness.com
95+ pages, with charts and links

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