Cord cutting is speeding up at a rate that is surprising to many, especially those that run cable TV networks. Now there have been a lot of developments over the last few weeks that raise the real question of how many cable TV networks will still be here in as little as five years from now and especially in the next ten years.
So today, we are going to be looking at five factors that are spelling doom for cable TV networks and could force many of them to shut down over the next five to ten years.
#1 Viewers Are Getting Older
Recently the average age of cable TV viewers is skyrocketing even for networks that traditionally target younger audiences.
Cartoon Network, which advertises itself as targeting a core audience of boys and girls aged 6-12, now though most of its viewers are reportedly over the age of 18, with 75% of its viewers are now over the age of 18 and 43% over the age of 30, according to Statista. Because of this it seems that Warner Bros. Discovery wants to use Adult Swim to help drive up its viewership earlier by moving it up to 6 pm.
It has even been reported that in 2022 during the hours of 6 pm to 8 pm, 68% of Cartoon Networks’ audience was over the age of 18. This time block has traditionally been big, with school-age kids looking to watch TV before bed.
This ever-aging demographic of viewers raises questions about networks targeting younger audiences. Not only the ones targeting kids but even those in the 18 to 25 demographics.
Recently Comcast has moved some kid’s networks like Cartoon Network out of their base packages to more expensive packages. This has been seen as a sign of how the traditional dominant children’s networks are less of a powerhouse than they had once been.
We have even seen the CW try to rebrand itself as more of a sports network to help address the changing world of TV.
These factors could help speed networks like Disney Channel shutting down. We have even seen Disney start to shut down its TV networks in parts of Europe.
#2 Disney May Kill The Bundle Deals, Killing Many Channels
Disney has long been one of the more forward-thinking TV networks. When Sling TV launched, Disney was one of the first major networks to join in, including offering its ESPN networks streaming online. Now Disney is reportedly planning on making ESPN a stand-alone streaming service without the need for a cable TV or streaming provider.
Now thanks to a Disney project code-named ‘Flagship,’ Disney staff are actively working on turning ESPN into a streaming service. Exactly how that will work is still unknown.
In the past, Disney has used ESPN to force cable networks to include all of their cable networks or don’t get ESPN. Now though Disney has been shutting down many of their networks in other countries, directing customers to Disney+.
It is very easy to see how this move will start a domino effect in sports. FOX, Paramount, and NBC could all easily follow in ESPNs footsteps and make their content available through their streaming services like Paramount+, Peacock, and the Fox Sports app. Raising a very real question of why anyone would pay for 100+ channels of content they don’t want when they can get the sports programs they do directly from the providers.
#3 Networks Will Struggle to Sell Commercials
One of the biggest issues facing cable networks over the next five years is a decline ad market. There are a growing number of options for advertisers. Over the last few years, many major streaming services have added ad-supported versions. This has started to pull ads from cable networks.
There is also the issue of declining ad revenue on all platforms. This is coming from a combination of factors. As the economy is uncertain, many advertisers are pulling back. Other advertisers have been looking at cheaper options for ad space, driving down the ad revenue across the board for all.
This struggling ad market will see many cable networks being forced to cut back.
Recently Paramount announced it would be laying off 25% of its staff across the board at its cable TV networks. This includes staff at Nick, MTV, Comedy Central, Paramount Network, CMT, Smithsonian, TV Land, Logo and Pop TV. Paramount also announced that MTV News would be shutting down as well.
In a memo to staff Paramount Media Networks, President Chris McCarthy said: “However, despite this success in streaming, we continue to feel pressure from broader economic headwinds like many of our peers. To address this, our senior leaders in coordination with HR have been working together over the past few months to determine the optimal organization for the current and future needs of our business.”As these pressures mount, it is very likely other networks will follow suit and even lead to many smaller networks shutting down.
#4 Content is Moving to Streaming Services
Recently we have seen a trend of networks moving content off of traditional cable TV networks and to streaming services. NBCUniversal has been moving sporting event sot Peacock, and Paramount has put many of their biggest new shows on Parmoung+ instead of CBS.
This raises a question about smaller networks and what content they will have to air as more content is moved to streaming services.
#5 A Growing Number of Cord Cutters Are Goign On-Demand Only
The last and maybe the most critical factor speeding up the death of cable TV networks is the fact that cord cutters just don’t care about live TV like they used to. In the 1st quarter of 2023, of all the live TV services, both cable TV and streaming, only YouTube TV added subscribers.
Increasingly non-sports fans are leaving live TV services and going on-demand only services. The newly rebranded HBO Max service now called Max offers a library that would take a cord cutter almost four years of non-stop watching to see everything. With that amount of content at your fingertips, available when you want it, you can see why cord cutters are not moving to cheaper on-demand services.
Right now, the majority of cord cutters do not pay for a live TV streaming service. That trend is expected to continue. As fewer people pay for additional cable TV networks, smaller ones will need to shut down so larger ones can continue to get the funding they need.
None of these factors on their own will force a TV network to shut down. Put all together with declining ad revenue and subscriber revenue, you can see how smaller networks will need to be cut back to help larger ones survive. This very well could lead to most cable TV networks becoming a thing of the past over the next five to ten years.
No matter what happens, it is clear that how we watch TV in the future will look very different from what we have today.