MoffettNathanson Research

There’s more bad news for the cable television business, courtesy of a new report from MoffettNathanson analyst Michael Nathanson.

Nathanson says cable networks saw a total viewership decline of almost 10% last year when analyzing the top 20 channels. Driving the downward trend is the departure of younger viewers, who are leaving cable behind at a greater rate than their elders, whose viewership remains basically flat.

Nathanson’s research finds that total day viewership for those 18-49 dropped an average of 15% to 7.1 million. Viewership was down 4% among viewers 50 and older — to 13.9 million. (The analysis is total day Nielsen C3 measurement.) Broadcast, meanwhile, saw a 10% decline in 18-49 viewership to 3 million. Among those 50 and older, viewership was down 4% to 9.1 million.

Looking at specific programs, Nathanson says sports and lifestyle options fell 12%, while news programming was down 23%. For those 50 and older, the results, while down slightly, were comparatively stable: down 1% in news, 3% in lifestyle and 5% each in sports and general entertainment. “We continue to believe older viewers and sports and news are the linchpin of the pay-TV ecosystem,” Nathanson writes.

Older viewers are still consuming the news. That programming is easily the dominant force among the older crowd, bringing an average viewership of 412,000. That dwarfs general entertainment, which is next at 122,000.

It’s a vastly different story for those 18-49: 89,000 for general entertainment, 68,000 for children/family programming, and 67,000 for news.