Looming Writer's Strike Reveals Tenuous State of Television Industry

Looming Writer's Strike Reveals Tenuous State of Television Industry
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Television ratings are already in a precarious state. What it doesn't need is a steep drop in quality content.

As the Writer's Guild of America continues to engage in contract talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the trade association that represents Hollywood's largest employers, it's instructive to consider the tenuous state of the television industry.

Of the top 25 shows on broadcast television, only two posted a ratings increase during the fall-winter season, according to Nielsen. The average ratings for the top 79 scripted shows on broadcast TV among those ages 18 to 49 was 13% lower than for the 2015-16 TV season.

Meanwhile, TV advertising grew 1% in 2016, fueled almost entirely by political ads, according to a Goldman Sachs report late last month. When political ads at cable-TV news networks are removed from the equation, the picture darkens. National advertising excluding cable-TV political fell by about 1.5%, a worrisome decline. 

Taken together, subscriptions to cable-TV services fell the most ever in 2016, according to media research group MoffettNathanson. The decline last year was 1.7%, or about 1.7 million subscribers. And while 2016 cable-TV ratings were bolstered by a chance in Nielsen methodology, MoffettNathanson is forecasting "sharp ratings declines" this year as more viewers spend more time at video-on-demand services led by Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu not to mention free platforms like Facebook (FB) and Snapchat (SNAP) .
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