Cord cutting is continuing to hit cable TV networks hard, and it also hit local TV stations in 2023. According to a report from Variety, ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC are still the most watched TV networks; however, Primetime numbers are down compared to five years ago.
In 2018, the major broadcasters averaged more than 25 million subscribers viewing the Primetime lineups according to IndieWire. In 2023, that number dropped to 16.2 million subscribers, making it a loss of 8.799 million viewers. (Note: Both sites are owned by the same company. This yearly report recently moved from IndieWire to Variety.)
NBC saw viewership drop from 7.876 million viewers in 2018 to 4.537 million viewers in 2023—a drop of more than 3.3 million viewers. CBS viewership dropped from 7.385 million in 2018 to 4.508 million in 2023; ABC dropped from 5.423 million in 2018 to 3.888 million in 2023; and FOX dropped from 4.401 million in 2018 to 3.353 million viewers in 2023.
Americans are moving away from live TV and switching to on-demand services. To help try and keep viewers coming to watch live ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC are investing more heavily in live events to attract viewers.
Recently, locals like CBS have made deals to air Pickle Ball tournaments during Primetime. FOX, NBC, and CBS reached deals with the Big Ten that will result in more football and basketball games aired on broadcast TV than on cable networks.
Other sports, like local NBA and NHL games, have moved to broadcast TV stations to attract viewers back to locals.
The good news for local TV stations is that they are still the most viewed networks. NBC is the most popular, followed by CBS, ABC, and FOX.
NBC and CBS both saw viewership drop in 2023 by 12%. ABC saw a jump of 1% in 2023, and FOX viewership increased 4% in 2023. Still the numbers are down from five years ago.
Broadcasters rely on cable TV fees to cover their costs. As Americans cancel cable TV, broadcasters may find themselves having to rely on advertising to cover costs. That may mean some major changes for these broadcasters in the years to come.