Niche Channels Take a Bite Out of Cable Ratings

Nielsen ratings show fewer viewers for big names

Big cable networks are losing viewers to their smaller competitors, the New York Post reported today. According to Nielsen ratings, many of the top channels saw their viewership decline by double digits in the third quarter, with major names like ESPN and Lifetime each losing 15 percent in ratings.

Fifteen of the 20 top cable networks experienced a decline among viewers age 25 to 45 in prime time, according to Nielsen. Although not as strong, there was a similar trend among viewers age 18 to 49, leading to a prime-time ratings decline for 11 of the top 20 channels.

Overall, cable ratings were actually up by 2 percent in the 25 to 54 age range between June and September. But instead of tuning into the big cable channels, many of those viewers were watching niche networks. A number of smaller networks saw a bump in ratings, with Style up 68 percent, HLN up 48 percent, and The Weather Channel up 36 percent (thanks, in part, to August’s Hurricane Irene).