Turner Report: Big 4 Audience Loss Continues

Broadcast networks down 5% this year, with viewers still fleeing to USA and other cable destinations

In keeping with what has become a yearly TV ratings tradition, Turner Networks’ research department Wednesday released figures revealing the continued erosion of audience for broadcast and the sustained growth of cable.

In calendar year 2009, the combined ratings average for the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) among adults 18-49 has slipped 5 percent to 9.7, while share in the demo has declined 3 percent to 27.3, according to the report

Meanwhile, cable has seen its rating in the adult demo increase 1 percent to a 17.9, while its share has grown 3 percent to 50.7.

Of the Big Four, CBS is the only network up in terms of 18-49 demo ratings performance (4 percent) this year, while NBC (down 14 percent), Fox (-9 percent) and ABC (-4 percent) have all shown declines in the key demo.

According to Turner, the so-called “Leno effect” factored significantly into NBC’s drop, with the network declining 45 percent in adult demo performance during the 10’clock hour this season.

Among individual cable networks, USA continues to reign at No. 1 in adults 18-49 prime-time performance, followed by ESPN, TBS, TNT and FX.

In terms of individual series, USA also owns the top two spots, with newly launched shows “Royal Pains” and “White Collar” ranking Nos. 1 and 2 in adult-demo performance. A&E’s newly launched “Steven Seagal: Lawman” ranks third.