Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cable Makes Major Ratings Gains Against Broadcast in 2008

We're not just talking about a substantial number of people, but the biggest loss ever.

- Jack Wakshlag, Turner Broadcasting's Chief Research Officer at Turner Broadcasting System

In Daniel Frankel, "Cablers Shine, Broadcast Struggles," Variety, December 31, 2008

According to Jack Wakshlag, who directs research at Turner, 37 ad-supported cable networks enjoyed their best-ever primetime audience deliveries. Among them were USA, TNT, Fox News, Discovery Health, and History Channel. The broadcast networks were the losers, said Wakshlag. That, he suggested, is why basic cable added 5 million viewers to its universe since the beginning of the 2007-08 TV season.

Observers offer several reasons for the shift toward cable during 2008. A writers strike in early 2008 forced broadcast network repeats and led viewers looking for new fare toward the networks. Olympic coverage helped NBC-U's Bravo cable network and the presidential campaign helped Fox. In addition, original scripted series such as Burn Notice on USA and The Closer on TNT attracted increasing numbers of viewers.

Cable's victory is yet another knock at the major broadcast networks, which have been suffering ratings declines and financial pressures. A key question is whether cable's good fortunes will last.

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