Fear not a nasty pre-Halloween surprise, as Nielsen's October live cable TV ratings proved more benign than malicious: although industry ratings were down 6% YoY in both total day and primetime viewership, October marks the fourth consecutive month of deceleration in the pace of those declines. In addition, October offered a modestly less favorable YoY comp than September, implying even greater underlying improvement. Given the encouraging tone on the state of the ad market offered by our ad agency buyer contacts as well as network sellers (Comcast's NBCU highlighted solid scatter market into year-end being one example), improving TV ad market conditions could support better 2H ad revenue for those with avails to sell. We think viewership stabilization could be an unexpected tailwind into the 4Q. Please email us for our dynamic monthly live cable ratings database by network and company or our Media valuation comparables. Company-specific highlights include the following:
*Turner realized its fourth successive month of improving ratings trends. CNN followed up the ratings uplift provided by the second GOP Debate in September, with strong viewership of the Democratic debate (viewership was up 54% YoY in primetime this month). The debate attracted 15.3mn total viewers, making it the highest-rated Democratic debate ever, and also drove 980k concurrent video streams (not captured in the live ratings). TBS was up 27% YoY in primetime, returning to growth for the first time this year propelled by the MLB NLCS between two major-market teams, the New York Mets and the Chicago Cubs. As such, despite ongoing ratings softness at TNT (down 10% YoY in primetime), Turner's overall primetime ratings were up 7% YoY in October.
*Although Disney's aggregate cable viewership was down again in October, we are encouraged by the ongoing viewership stability at ESPN (up 1% YoY), which grew primetime ratings for the second consecutive month. The solid results were largely driven by Monday Night Football and NCAA College Football audience growth in October. However, across Disney's portfolio of networks, aggregate viewership was down 11% in primetime owing to viewership declines at ABC Family, down 27% YoY.
*At AMCX, although The Walking Dead ratings were down from the record levels set in last year's Season 5 premiere (in part due to tough competition from baseball and football), it remains the top show on cable TV. Moreover, despite the tough comparisons, AMC network primetime viewership was actually up 3% YoY in October. However, even with a solid contribution from Sundance (+11% YoY), aggregate ratings for the company were down 3% in October due to soft results at WE tv and IFC, both down 25% YoY in October.
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