TV Viewership Down 10%; Industry Blames Streaming Video

Even though many of us have hundreds of channels to choose from on cable or satellite, we’re choosing to watch less live TV. But it’s not just because we’ve all decided to go outside and take up steeplechase; it has a little something to do with the availability of subscription streaming services.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a recent talk held by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau in which the trade group tried to assign blame for the drop-off in TV viewership over the last two years.

The reportedly CAB explained at this gathering that around 40% of recent ratings drops are a result of competition from services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Over the last few quarters, year-over-year viewership declines range from 9-12%. A recent research report from Nielsen claims that “the U.S. television industry is entering a period of prolonged structural decline,” due to consumers moving away from traditional commercial TV to streaming services with no, or fewer, commercials.

And with a growing number of non-cable TV options in the offing, many consumers are planning to abandon pay-TV or cut back their packages. A recent survey from a TiVO-owned research firm found that 1.5 million Americans plan to cut the cord entirely in the near future, with another 2.4 million looking to downgrade their current pay-TV package.

While there is no concrete way to calculate streaming video’s direct impact on TV viewership, the fact that average Netflix viewership is up to 100 minutes a day indicates that it must be cutting into the time some people would have spent watching live TV. One report says Netflix consumption was up nearly 31% year-over-year for the last quarter of 2014.

Some in the industry believe that ratings declines might not be as bad as the numbers indicate, as Nielsen is not yet taking into account TV viewership on mobile devices, which are an increasingly popular platform.