Linear TV viewing has declined a dramatic 7.2% since the beginning of third quarter 2019—the worst quarterly decline on record, according to a new study from UBS Global Research. And there’s more bad news for the industry, as older demos begin to falter.
The P35-49 demo is seeing the greatest deceleration based on an analysis of Nielsen estimates, declining 11.9% QTD (quarter to date) vs. a drop of 10.2% last quarter and 6.3% year over year. But worse, for the first time ever, the 55+ viewing audience is now fleeing. Historically, the age group has represented an all-important 50% of the total audience for live television. That is no longer true, with a 2.0% decline over the last two consecutive quarters.
The news, not surprisingly, is worse for younger viewers, according to the U.S. Media & Entertainment division’s “UBS TV Ratings Guide: Insight into Ad Estimates.” The study compared traditional TV viewing between now and 2010 levels, and found that the youngest viewers have eroded 50% to 60% over that period. P18-24 was down18.8% in Q3 vs a fall of 21.9% in Q2 2019.
The historical overall drop of 7.2% QTD compares with a drop of 6.8% last quarter and a downfall of 7.0% for traditional TV viewing in Q1 2019.
Looking at networks, ABC and CBS lost the most viewers, down 10% this quarter. NBC actually rose 17%, while Fox was also up, 5%.
The top-ranked shows, season to date, are “The Big Bang Theory” (ABC), “This Is Us” (NBC), “The Masked Singer” (Fox), “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) and “Manifest” (NBC).