Cable Is Anything But Dead

Jay Drummond // May 1 // Insights

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Nothing could be more alive than The Walking Dead!
There has been a change in America's television viewing habits as the AMC network program, The Walking Dead, sprinted into history by becoming the only cable program to beat broadcast programming in the ongoing battle for ratings.

Everybody Loves a Winner
The Walking Dead was #1 for the night, # 1 for the week and #1 for the season in the coveted adults aged 18-49 ratings.

Just to put this into perspective, The Walking Dead Season 3 finale had 8.1 million aged 18-49 viewers (12.4 million total viewers) which was its highest total to date. According to TV by the Numbers, this was up 36% over the Season 2 finale.

Even though Netflix won’t reveal numbers, word has it that people practiced a little binge viewing on Season 1 and 2. This allowed viewers the opportunity to catch up to the plot line and thus pile on the live viewing driving up ratings for Season 3.

The significance of this ratings feat is hard to oversell. Traditionally, it could be said that the highest cable rating was lower than the lowest broadcast rating. Not any more.

In recent years, only the NFL has continually made a dent in overall ratings. Now programs like Duck Dynasty on A&E make a weekly impact on viewing and not just in lighter summer viewing time periods.

Another example is The Bible from the History Channel. This five-week mini series was so successful that it is now being recut as a three-hour version for theatrical release.
What Cable Network Do You Watch?
That used to be the question. You probably either liked sports, food, news or animals. Now the question has become, what television program do you watch?

It doesn’t matter if it’s broadcast or cable as long as the content is good. I suspect that now most people viewing a cable program have no idea what cable network they are watching.
Cable Closes the Gap with Broadcast
As a scheduling tactic, cable tends to air first-run programming during broadcast’s offseason when there is nothing else on but a sea of repeats. Cable has also kept people’s interest by airing shorter seasons with little to no break in the weekly episodes. While a broadcast series mid-season hiatus may well last over a month before it resumes airing. Talk about a buzz killing momentum slayer.

Cable networks have come a long way since Ted Turner flipped the switch on TBS back in the 70’s. According to MediaPost, cable is growing and now represents 70% of all prime time television viewing. Granted, the number represents many cable networks with the majority of the growth coming from smaller cable networks out of the top 25.

While any specific cable network may not be able to unseat 40 years of broadcast network dominance, as The Walking Dead has proved, cable programming can most certainly be "must see TV".

Add it to iCal now and set a reminder. Season 4 of The Walking Dead airs October 14th. Walk On!

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