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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 01, 2013

New Turner/Nielsen Report Points to Big Gains for Cable

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Something of an odd dichotomy seems to be at work, based on the results of a recently released report from Turner Broadcasting (News - Alert) via Nielsen data. For the first quarter of 2013, more people are watching television with advertising support in the United States, and more users are using so-called "time shifting" methods to watch that ad-supported television.

According to the Turner Broadcasting report, the average time spent watching television was up about an extra 24 minutes over the same time in 2012, going from 35.6 hours per week to an even 36 hours per week. This number doesn't represent a record high, however, as it's lower than 2011's numbers at 36.2 hours, but it's higher than 2008's numbers of 35 hours even.

The big driver in this concept was the ad-supported cable system, which brought in 17.9 hours of that total, up about 20 minutes from previous years. Broadcast networks saw another drop in their viewership numbers, falling from 8.5 hours to 8.4, and the "other" category--things like independent networks and premium pay channels, has been on a fairly steady rise since 2008, when it was at 9.1 hours, climbing to 9.7 hours this year.

While live television viewing is up slightly--32.9 hours a week now instead of 32.8--time shifting is likewise up a little less slightly from 2.8 hours in 2012 to three hours even, with digital video recorder systems (DVRs) in 47 percent of households with televisions.

This paints an interesting picture of the overall landscape, with time spent watching television seemingly up and a little extra boost in terms of time-shifted television. There are several possible explanations for this larger trend, from current subscribers watching more television to increased subscriber numbers to even a net loss in the total watching substantially more television. It's worth noting that many of the measures released from the Turner study are stated in hours, which can be spread out over an unknown number of viewers.

With reports seeming to vary on the overall impact of the so-called "cable cutting" movement--in which pay-TV users eschew their old programming choices for newer, less expensive alternatives online--the overall status of cable seems healthy, but may have some competition lurking. With online sources like Netflix and Hulu (News - Alert) still holding up--some reports suggest that five percent of the United States is currently getting its entertainment needs met by an antenna and the Internet--and even Intel (News - Alert) looking to get into the fray with an online-based sort of service, it's setting up to make things very interesting overall in the coming years.

The overall direction of television isn't exactly clear as yet, but we may well be looking at something of a shakeup ahead. Will online substitutes for cable catch on? Will the independent networks see themselves taking a larger chunk of the pot? Will the networks recover? A lot of questions are out there to be answered, and only time will tell which way it all falls.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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