Terra Mater - Star Chasers on Senegal

Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

US Unscripted Networks: How Many Homes Reached? Trends & Takeaways. Debut for the Smithsonian Channel

Here is a July 4 Weekend treat: a snapshot of the estimated distribution universe of a majority of the US cable channels that schedule unscripted programs.

  • The data raises the question: Is there a wave of cord-cutting that is eroding the channels business model?
  • See my Takeaways below.

International Documentary Buyers’ Guide, 2014-2015
20% Discount Offer Extended

94 Network Buyers.
163 Contacts.
47 distributors.
11 funds.
8 digital players.
15 Countries.
200+ pages
From Hot Docs: The slots. The deciders. Their filters.
Save 20%  Offer Extended thru June 6: $119.60. Regular: $149.95
Order and Download here!

Cable Network Universe Estimates
A Selection, July 2014

The column headings are:

Channel / July 2013 Universe / July 2014 Universe / +/- ‘000 / +/- %

FXX (FOX SOCCER)51,39373,25521,86242.5%
VELOCITY52,15258,3306,17811.8%
OVATION43,52749,3285,80113.3%
UP (Gospel Music)61,40166,3594,9588.1%
Al Jazeera America48,16153,1044,94310.3%
IFC69,49973,1093,6105.2%
WE TV83,02885,7392,7113.3%
COOKING60,47562,7112,2363.7%
REELZ66,61667,7221,1061.7%
NAT GEO CHNL84,52085,0325120.6%
SPORTSMAN31,87932,2683891.2%
MSNBC94,78295,0512690.3%
ID84,31984,5482290.3%
DIY58,72458,752280.0%
OXYGEN MEDIA78,32178,32540.0%
SHOWTIME27,56127,551-100.0%
DISCOVERY EN ESPANOL7,3517,084-267-3.6%
FUSE72,99372,605-388-0.5%
MTV281,11580,420-695-0.9%
LOGO52,21651,513-703-1.3%
NG WILD57,69256,808-884-1.5%
CENTRIC51,95250,990-962-1.9%
TRU TV91,48390,406-1,077-1.2%
SCIENCE76,92875,744-1,184-1.5%
BRAVO94,39593,128-1,267-1.3%
E!96,63295,331-1,301-1.3%
BET91,41890,101-1,317-1.4%
BBC-AMERICA80,35578,932-1,423-1.8%
FX97,31595,872-1,443-1.5%
H268,82467,366-1,458-2.1%
ANIMAL PLANET96,40894,819-1,589-1.6%
Am. Heroes / MILITARY62,10960,502-1,607-2.6%
HISTORY98,37596,710-1,665-1.7%
CNN / HLN99,45897,762-1,696-1.7%
LIFETIME98,44596,742-1,703-1.7%
CNN98,72197,009-1,712-1.7%
A&E98,53596,806-1,729-1.8%
FOOD NETWORK99,42797,668-1,759-1.8%
TRAVEL94,53692,704-1,832-1.9%
SYFY97,69295,850-1,842-1.9%
SPIKE TV97,49995,636-1,863-1.9%
HGTV98,41896,494-1,924-2.0%
DISCOVERY99,09097,163-1,927-1.9%
CMT91,40189,452-1,949-2.1%
CNBC96,43194,478-1,953-2.0%
OWN83,59381,629-1,964-2.3%
VH196,94894,939-2,009-2.1%
TLC98,07296,052-2,020-2.1%
ESPN97,98595,762-2,223-2.3%
MTV97,87895,539-2,339-2.4%
DISCOVERY FIT & HEALTH48,98946,400-2,589-5.3%
OUTDOOR39,34136,587-2,754-7.0%
DESTINATION AMERICA59,90357,033-2,870-4.8%
GAC63,11460,192-2,922-4.6%
FYI68,34265,333-3,009-4.4%
SMITHSONIAN30,811
SUNDANCE57,210
TOTAL U.S.114,200115,8001,6001.4%

Source: National Nielsen People Meter

Key Findings

Comparing July 2013 vs. July 2014:

  • Nielsen now projects total wired cable at 67,379,000 homes, down 1,694,000 in the past year (-2.5%).
  • Other measurement services have estimated larger decreases in wired cable.
  • Satellite dish services total 38,077,000, up 2,159,000 from a year ago (+6.0%).
  • Total Cable/Dish services have 103,848,000 homes, up 483,000 (+0.5%).
  • The average cable network lost homes in the past year, having to do with a combination of sample adjustments and wired cable declines.

Smithsonian Channel is a Winner

  • The Smithsonian Channel with 30,811,000 is added to the Nielsen service for the 1st time.
  • Smithsonian is a bastion of quality, curated, entertaining nonfiction docs and specials.
  • Here is coverage by Michael Rose in Huffpo of A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD, a bio doc about Jonas Salk and the race to develop a polio vaccine that features Bill Gates, and that I co-EP’d for Smithsonian and Steeltown Entertainment.

Terrestrial / PBS

  • The total US TV Universe HH Estimate is 115.8 million homes.
  • PBS is a terrestrial network and reaches approximately this footprint.

MY TAKEAWAYS Cord-cutting

  • I was expecting cord-cutting to make a dent in the Cab/Sat distribution universe.
  • But I have come to better appreciate the leverage that channels enjoy with operators.
  • The operators are determined to lower costs as their programming margins shrink, but their overall profitability is sustained by DSL/telephone services.
  • The channels are increasingly concentrated in a handful of owners, e.g. Disney, Fox, VIACOM, COMCAST, and who offer the operators a take-it-or-leave it big package of networks.
  • The operators can’t drop under-performing or duplicative ‘me-too’ channels without threatening their carriage of the ‘must have’ programming services from the major content owners.
  • As ever, ‘Content is King!’

Easy Days are Over

  • However, the era of rapid ‘organic growth’ for channels is over and done.
  • Very few channels can expect to add cable systems with lots of new viewers.
  • And because it is the the distribution universe that establishes the scale of the potential viewing audience, dramatic gains in ratings are not in the cards.
  • Programmers are increasingly fighting out a vicious ground game to gain a yard or two from their competitors.

2014-06-27 11.02.23-1

NEXT: Sunnyside of the Doc Takeaways

  • This year, La Rochelle served as a beautiful location for a relaxed and valuable market /conference that was very good for new business.
  • Sunnyside was recently under threat when Sheffield moved to its June slot; but director Yves Jeanneau and his team brought SSD charging back with a renewed purpose that is attracting new delegations.
  • Read my Takeaways in my next post!

2014-06-25 20.34.56