U.S. Media - September TV Ratings: Baby Steps Forward? - Anthony DiClemente, Nomura Securities
Nielsen's September live cable TV ratings show that cable industry ratings were down 7% and 8% YoY in total day and primetime viewership, respectively. This marks the 3rd consecutive month of a deceleration in the pace of declines, and we note that September offered a modestly less favorable YoY comp than August. With the encouraging tone on the state of the ad market offered by media management teams--DISCA's higher 3QE advertising guidance provided at its investor day being one example--improving TV ad market conditions could support better 3Q ad revenue for those with inventory to sell. While we are cautious to count on it, ratings 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:
**AMCX remained a bright spot this month, growing aggregate primetime viewership 24% YoY. Although down from the record premiere, viewership of Fear The Walking Dead continued to drive audience growth at the company's flagship channel, AMC Network, which was up 46% YoY in primetime in September. In addition, ongoing strong primetime ratings results at Sundance (+82% YoY) also contributed to the month's strong performance.
**Turner realized its 3rd successive month of decelerating aggregate ratings declines. In September, the vast majority of ratings relief came from Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and CNN. Cartoon Network continued its streak of ratings growth to 6 months and Adult Swim grew primetime viewership for the 6th time in the last 7 months. At CNN, the second rendition of the GOP Debate drew nearly 23mn viewers (viewership was up 116% YoY in primetime this month). The debate attracted 6.9mn viewers in the news demo (age 25-54) and also drove 4.5mn video streams (not captured in the live ratings). With that said, ongoing ratings softness at key networks TNT and TBS (down 21% and 28%YoY respectively in September) weighed on Turner's overall primetime ratings, down 6% YoY in September.
**Disney's aggregate cable viewership was down again in September, but the pace of declines moderated meaningfully (and for the 3rd consecutive month) largely driven by the strong debut of Monday Night Football's double header. ESPN garnered 3% YoY viewership growth and ESPN 2 grew primetime ratings 25% YoY in September. However, across Disney's portfolio of networks, aggregate viewership was down 8% and 12% YoY in primetime and total day, respectively.
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