News Consumption Boosts Cable’s Share of TV Viewing

(Image credit: Pixabay)

NEW YORK—Overall TV viewing declined in April but an upswing in cable news viewing increased cable’s share of the TV audience for the second straight month, according to Nielsen's April 2023 report of The Gauge, a monthly snapshot of total broadcast, cable and streaming consumption that occurs through a television.

This gain for cable also represents the first back-to-back share increase for the category since the inception of The Gauge in May 2021. Both streaming and broadcast lost viewing share while streaming retained the largest share of total TV viewing.  

(Image credit: Nielsen's The Gauge)

With a decrease of 1.9% from March to April, total TV usage in the U.S. declined for the third consecutive month, a trend that is typical as the summer months approach. By comparison, time spent watching TV declined 2.1% over the same period in 2022, Nielsen reported. 

The cable category exhibited the smallest dip in viewing across all categories in The Gauge this month, decreasing 0.6% vs. March, and was able to gain 0.4 share points to account for 31.5% of total TV viewing in April. Cable news viewing increased 4.3% from March to April and accounted for the largest portion of cable viewing (19%). 

Even so, time spent watching cable content was down 12.0% in April 2023 compared to a year earlier and the category has lost 5.3 share points in the last year. 

At 23.1% share of total TV, broadcast viewing was down 2.7% in April and the category lost 0.2 share points on the month. The completion of the NCAA basketball tournament, and The Masters golf tournament, were the most-watched broadcast programs in April, but broadcast sports viewing overall dipped 17.1% vs. March to account for 9.6% of the category. The general drama genre increased 2.1% in April, driven by titles like NCIS, Blue Bloods and Chicago Fire. From a year-over-year perspective, broadcast viewership was down 3.7%, and the category has lost 1.6 share points, Nielsen reported. 

Time spent with streaming content was down 2.1% in April compared with March, and the streaming category recorded a loss in share (-0.1 pts.) for the second consecutive month. However, streaming still concluded the month with the largest share of TV at 34.0%.

Offsetting April's dip in streaming consumption were the FAST (free ad-supported TV) offerings of Tubi TV and Pluto TV. Tubi TV usage was up 6% from March, and the platform added 0.1 share point to capture 1.1% of overall TV, and Pluto TV viewing increased 3.9% on the month to stay at 0.8% of TV. In March 2023, Pluto TV exhibited the largest increase in usage across all streaming platforms at 4.6%. 

Additional streaming highlights include:

  • Time spent watching YouTube (excluding YouTube TV) on television increased 1.5% in April, which led to a gain of 0.3 share points and upheld YouTube as the most-watched streaming platform at 8.1% of overall TV usage.
  • Despite having the two most-watched streaming titles in April ("The Night Agent" and "Love is Blind"), Netflix was down 7% in usage vs. March and lost 0.4 share points to finish at 6.9% of total TV.
  • Disney+ was down 1.7% in usage but retained its 1.8% share of television on the strength of "The Mandalorian", which was the third most-watched streaming title in April.
  • Viewing via MVPD (multichannel video programming distributor) and vMVPD (virtual multichannel video programming distributor) streaming apps represented 5.4%* of total television use in April, including 1.2% attributed to YouTube TV, and 0.4% to Hulu Live.
George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.