Originally published: March 28, 2012
Last updated: April 5, 2012 - 6:25am
For more than three decades, cable television programmers enjoyed steady ratings gains -- mostly at the expense of broadcasters. Inspired efforts like AMC’s Mad Men and FX’s Sons of Anarchy notwithstanding, those steady ratings increases sometimes belied the quality of programming they ran on their channels (sorry, Snooki). But with the cable business finally reaching saturation when it comes to adding new subscribers, and viewers blessed with more on-demand choices than ever, many top cable channels have recently experienced their worst ratings declines ever.
Ratings across top cable TV networks have taken a big, unexpected hit in the first quarter of this year. Measuring total day ratings performance, 15 of the top 20 basic cable channels experienced ratings drops in the first quarter—a rather unheard of benchmark in recent years, when channels steadily grew their audience as U.S. cable, satellite and telco TV service providers added subscribers. From 2001 to 2011, ad-supported cable’s full-year ratings average increased from a 26.6 rating to a 37.4, according to metrics researcher Nielsen.
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