Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


October 12, 2012

One of the early hits of the fall television season tells a story of a world that suddenly goes dark. That show, NBC's "Revolution," is starting to look a lot like a metaphor for the broader world of TV.

Television viewing of both cable and broadcast networks among adults under age 50 fell for the first two weeks of the new fall season, Nielsen data show, a much weaker start than the industry experienced last year. The major broadcast networks lost an average of 15% of their viewers in the 18-49 demographic compared with the first two weeks of last season. In that same group, viewership of ad-supported cable channels dropped 1%, according to Nielsen. The figures show less of a decline among people over 50, indicating that overall television audiences are getting older. Among all adults, the declines at broadcast networks were 11% while cable's overall audience rose 4%.

While it is still early days, and the figures don't account for some delayed viewing on digital video recorders or video on demand, the data amount to unhappy news for the TV industry. Viewership tends to be higher in the early part of the TV season, tailing off in the second half after football ends and networks start showing more reruns. The viewing slump suggests traditional television is being hurt by intensifying competition from online video outlets such as Google Inc's YouTube and Netflix Inc.

The networks, meanwhile, stress that many TV watchers are simply watching less live programming and instead recording it with digital video recorders. Nielsen hasn't yet released figures that include viewing delayed by up to three days. But in a report on Thursday, Nomura Securities analyst Michael Nathanson said that historically programs viewed up to three days after air date tend to see audience increases of 3.8 percentage points over standard ratings, which include only same-day viewing. "There is little doubt that early 2012/13 network results have been disappointing," Mr. Nathanson added. Ad buyers said they are watching the ratings drops closely, to see if the declines persist. "It's only two weeks into a 36 weeks season," cautioned Brad Adgate, a senior researcher at Horizon Media.

Still, most advertisers are protected from depressed ratings by provisions in their contracts that require networks to provide additional ad time if audience levels don't meet certain guarantees. The early results are promising for at least one network: NBC. Its 18-49 audience is up 11%, hinting at a nascent comeback for the network after years in the prime-time doldrums. NBC has been elevated by "Sunday Night Football," the highest-rated show on television, as well as the third season of its singing competition "The Voice," which has so far outshined its rival on Fox, "The X Factor." "The Voice" has additionally provided a strong launching pad on Monday nights for NBC's new post-apocalyptic drama "Revolution." NBC is a unit of Comcast Corp, while Fox is a unit of News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.

Worst hit have been News Corp.'s Fox and CBS Corp's CBS, each down around 25% in the 18-49 demographic that is most important to advertisers. CBS continues to be the top-rated network but it has pulled one of its four new shows, comedy "Made in Jersey," from its Friday night time slot, the first such move by a broadcast network this season. Two of its other new shows, "Vegas" and "Elementary," have done well. A few networks are still in the process of introducing their lineups, so the ratings for the weeks of Sept. 24 and Oct. 1 are just the first snapshot. ABC, for instance, didn't debut "Nashville," its most anticipated show, until this past Wednesday. ABC is owned by Walt Disney Co.

Some big-name cable channels have also experienced sharp declines in the 18-49 demographic, with a 41% decline at MTV and a 27% drop at Comedy Central, both owned by Viacom Inc., and a 13% drop at News Corp's FX. Meanwhile, cable news channels like Fox News, CNN and MSNBC have drawn larger audiences as the presidential election approaches in November. "If nothing else," added Michael Morris, an analyst at Davenport Research & Co, "this race will be a lot tighter than it has been in awhile." Wall Street Journal; also in Los Angeles Times, Wall Street worried about TV season

NYCTechMeetUp, a nonprofit group that represents computer coders and other technology industry people in New York, asked the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to pitch how their policies "would benefit the growth of New York start-up community and other start-up entrepreneurs." Each campaign responded. Mitt Romney promised, among other things, to raise visa caps for "highly skilled foreign workers," lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and weaken the power of regulatory agencies. He offered a vague paean to technology entrepreneurs, too, some of whom have generously donated to his campaign. "As president, I will emphasize policies that once again make America the best place in the world to make a discovery, start a business, hire a worker or find a job," he wrote.

Barack Obama, once crowned "the tech president," sought to cast himself as the candidate who understands "innovation" and praised technology professionals. "And the reason I've never been more optimistic about the future is because of all of you," he wrote. "You'll be the next entrepreneur to turn a big idea into something - a new invention or an entire new industry." He told the group that he had invested in broadband connectivity, signed a law making it easier for start-ups to go public, established a "start-up visa program" to allow foreigners to set up businesses in this country and created a new White House job - chief technology officer. New York Times

Mozilla said Thursday that it has re-released the latest version of its Firefox browser, after a security vulnerability forced the company to tell users not to use the program. Firefox 16 was originally released on Tuesday, but a bug that would have allowed malicious sites to look at which sites users had browsed prompted the company to stop downloads of the new browser.

In the company's security blog, Mozilla said that as of 3 p.m., Eastern time, users who had already downloaded the browser would get an automatic update. Web surfers can also download a fresh copy of the browser at Mozilla's Firefox Web site. The latest version of Firefox fixes 24 other security vulnerabilities from Firefox 15.0.1; Mozilla said that the previous version of its browser was unaffected by the bug. Firefox had a 20 percent share of the browser market, according to statistics from the Web measurement firm Net Marketshare. It is ahead of Google's Chrome browser, which had 18.86 percent of the market, but was still behind Internet Explorer's 53.63 percent share. Washington Post

Need proof that Pennsylvania isn't considered a battleground state in the Nov. 6 presidential election? Turn on your television. You won't see the campaign ads used to sway voters. Instead, the Keystone State is all about the ground game this year for President Obama and Mitt Romney. The focus for both campaigns is on registering voters and knocking on doors.

The conservative blog Daily Caller sent ripples of concern through Republican circles with a report Tuesday that Romney is moving "substantial resources" from Pennsylvania to Ohio. A Romney campaign source quickly pushed back, calling the move small and temporary. Then Romney's deputy campaign manager noted for the Detroit News on Wednesday the "most critical" states for the campaign's resources. Pennsylvania was missing from that list. Obama's campaign on Thursday claimed to have a stronger ground game than Romney's camp in several states, including Pennsylvania. The Obama campaign stressed growing strength in Pennsylvania among voters who are young, female and/or Latino. Pennsylvania has about 1 million more registered Democrats than Republicans.

In the last three months, Democrats have registered 46,111 voters in Pennsylvania and Republicans registered 26,150, Obama's campaign said. Romney's camp is touting the GOP ground game, saying that volunteers have had more than "3.5 million voter contacts" and have knocked on more Pennsylvania doors than in 2004 and 2008 combined. "The momentum is clearly behind Gov. Romney in Pennsylvania," spokeswoman Kate Meriwether told us. An Inquirer poll released Thursday showed Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania, 50 percent to 42 percent. Philadelphia Daily News