In Changing Market, TV Networks More Selective

Young adults watched less cable TV in 2015, and the television industry was seriously affected. Some networks lost significant portions of their audiences, others remained successful by airing fan-favorite shows and critically-acclaimed hits, and then there were those that succeeded in spite of the changing market.

Networks like History, Comedy Central, and Nick at Nite viewership dropped significantly, USA Today reported. Some networks succeeded in spite of falling ratings. AMC had a successful year with buoys like The Walking Dead, and Mad Men, which kept the network afloat even when other networks saw viewership dwindle.

So, why are audiences turning away from cable TV?

It’s got a lot to do with the rise of broadband and online streaming, which created new ways for audiences to watch shows. These options made it easy for audiences to “cut the cord,” according to The New York Times. Viewers can now access many of their favorite TV shows online without having to sign up for a cable subscription. Just how many alternative options are there? There are upwards of 13, including HBO NOW, Dish Network’s Sling TV, and CBS All Access – all of which eliminate the need for a cable subscription, and are attractive alternatives for a younger, less affluent demographic that’s used to watching shows online via Netflix or Hulu.

Not every traditional cable network suffered as a result of these technologies. Discovery Channel and HGTV were anomalies last year, with viewership up 11 percent on both networks. Networks like Oprah’s OWN, Food Network, Hallmark, Investigation Discovery, and WE tv all saw audience increases as well.

In all, it’s a rough time for TV networks, and it’s even harder to predict the kind of shows that are going to do well on air. Even more disheartening is that even if a production company can produce an excellent TV show, its on-air days are often numbered. Less impressive shows like Pretty Little Liars, (which we’ve blogged about before), succeed on air because they get so much hype on social media and net a young-adult demographic. We actually know who ‘A’ is, and PLL is still returning to television next year.

This dilemma has got production companies asking very-important questions: What kinds of content are networks looking to pick up? What shows will do well in syndication? How can cable TV revamp its style to compete with the sudden surge of online streaming?

Finding the answers to these questions is not easy. But we can start by taking a look at what’s going on at the anomaly networks in the industry – networks without big hits that somehow managed to beat the broken market by securing higher ratings. Successful cable networks are restructuring their brands, and they have the grounds to be pickier than ever when it comes to buying content.

It comes down to selectivity. That’s how one cable TV network managed to gain an increase in viewership this year.

Discovery Channel’s success has a lot to do with a movement to restructure the network’s brand, which involved replacing its former CEO with Disney and Endemol Shine veteran, Rich Ross. In 2013, Ross left Disney to work for Shine. See how Endemol Shine utilizes MediaShowroom here.

Ross, whose experience pitching and producing TV shows to be sold to networks, made the move to the other side at the beginning of last year. He accepted a position at Discovery Communications and has begun to revamp the channel. In an interview with the New York Times, Ross explained that by modifying the network to include the shows that today’s viewers want, he’s been able to get ratings up. Proof of Ross’ success might be in the program, Killing Fields – a serial crime drama that’s eerily similar to the HBO hit, True Detective, and airs this month.

With networks restructuring and finding ways to hit on the right content for viewers, it’s more important than ever for production companies to pitch and produce the right kinds of media. MediaShowroom is the media asset management tool that you need to measure audience engagement. You’ll be able to more easily predict the kinds of media that your clients are looking for – and save money while you’re at it. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help, take a look at one of our case studies here.

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