Most (& Least) Watched TV Networks of 2018

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by Michael Schneider

A few years ago, the joke among network TV execs was that “flat is the new up” — meaning that you could tout victory if your network had managed to at least hold steady and not lose more viewers.

Those were innocent times. Now, with so many channels slipping year-to-year by double digits, perhaps “single digit declines are the new up” should now be the industry mantra. In 2018, TV strategists who are used to erosion were nonetheless stunned by how quickly younger viewers are disappearing from linear TV. “We’re seeing real accelerated declines in live viewing,” one research exec told IndieWire. “People are changing their behavior. Maybe people are watching more efficiently.” Nielsen doesn’t report on the people watching video on mobile phones, iPads and laptops, but there’s a sense that viewers are using different platforms to time shift their viewing, the way they used to use DVRs.

With a few notable exceptions, young-skewing networks, as you might expect, were hit hardest in 2018 — and that included the Spanish-language channels, as that diverse demographic tends to be younger.

It’s not all gloom and doom, however. Thanks to both the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl, NBC managed to increase its audience by 9 percent, making it the most-watched network of 2018 (taking the crown from CBS). And although advertisers may snub them, older viewers are helping propel a new generation of classic TV channels. “[Older adult viewing levels] are much more stable than younger demos,” the researcher said.

Other networks seeing viewership growth in 2018 included Fox News Channel (once again the most-watched cable network), MSNBC, Ion, TNT, Hallmark, TLC, A&E, Me TV, MTV, Travel Channel, Nat Geo, GSN, Oxygen, and Science Channel.

Here are some of the notable winners and losers from 2018:

Read it all at IndieWire