Here are a baker’s dozen cable TV statistics offering a clear snapshot of who's watching what, and why.
Get the essential facts about who is watching what among today's cable TV audienceTelevision has held the crown at the center of our entertainment lives for years, and despite encroachment from new media contenders, cable TV remains a valuable part of that industry. The latest cable TV statistics reveal that even though the world around us is often uncertain, millions of Americans have not changed the channel.
Here are some of the most important facts and figures you should know about today's cable TV market.
Want to dig even deeper into OTT, CTV, and linear TV advertising? Check out The Big List of TV Viewership Statistics [Updated for 2023].
Who is the Cable TV Audience?
- An American adult is predicted to watch 2 hours and 33 minutes of TV daily in 2023 (Statista).
- 56% of U.S. adults have cable or satellite TV (Statista).
- 49% of Baby Boomers use cable TV, and 59% watch 10+ hours of TV a week (Ipsos).
- Only 34% of adults aged 18-29 have cable or satellite TV (Pew).
- The average cable TV package costs anywhere from $114 to $217 a month (doxo, Allconnect).
The latest cable TV statistics reveal that television is a daily habit for most adults in the U.S. In fact, all forms of television are projected to account for two and a half of our 24 hours every day in 2023. Cable or satellite TV has a presence in about half of our lives in the US, with 56% of adults paying for the privilege.
Age is one of the most notable data points driving cable TV viewership statistics, and the results are often stark. In many different surveys, younger viewers are more likely to favor streaming for TV access and older viewers are more likely to be watching via cable TV.
The trend of younger viewers rejecting cable has grown rapidly. A Pew Research Center survey found that 65% of the 18-29 age bracket had cable TV in 2015, a share that plummeted to 34% by 2021. Within that group of respondents, 61% also said that they have not had cable TV in the past — yet TV sales are still growing. If marketers want to reach these younger audiences on the most engaging screen in their home, they’ll need to pursue connected TV strategies.
Those results make for a clear contrast with the TV habits of older generations. Ipsos found that Baby Boomers were more than three times as likely as Gen Z to log 10 or more hours of TV time each week. Only 21% of the older age group reported watching streaming services on a personal device, compared with 49% watching cable TV.
For cable TV viewers, access isn't always cheap. Prices vary widely by state and by package type, with some consumers bundling their television with their internet access or other utilities for convenience and savings. However, 69% of the Pew survey respondents without cable said cost was a reason they didn't opt to pay for the TV service.
Cable TV Statistics Versus Streaming Statistics
- July 2022 was the first month that streaming had more viewership than cable TV (Nielsen).
- Cable TV had a 30.9% share of TV viewing in December 2022 (Nielsen).
Ever since streaming video platforms came on the scene, there has been debate about how the new technology would impact traditional TV viewership. It wasn't until July 2022 that Nielsen showed streaming taking a larger piece of the pie than cable. It was also a narrow victory, with streaming accounting for 34.8% and cable TV statistics taking 34.4% of the audience.
Streaming has only been gaining ground since then. By the final month of 2022, its share had grown to 38.1%, while cable TV dipped to 30.9%. As that gradual growth continues for streaming, marketers should be prepared to incorporate CTV into their plans to account for the role streaming plays in the video sector. Our Guide to CTV for Search and Social Marketers has more information about ideal strategies for reaching consumers in this rapidly shifting media climate.
News Drives Cable TV Viewership And Skepticism
- FOX News leads cable news channels with 2.04 million viewers in 2022 (Statista).
- The top three news channels saw audience declines in 2022 (Nielsen, via Variety).
- 17% of Americans are politically polarized by their television viewing (Muise).
The audience for news on cable TV is still large but currently experiencing a decline. Nielsen data for 2022 found that FOX News viewership fell 1% year-over-year and was the fifth most-watched television channel. The MSNBC audience decreased 22% that year and CNN fell 34%.
Some of these dips could be tied to shifts in public opinion about cable news. Muise’s investigation into partisan news habits revealed that TV created more political polarization than online news consumption: 17% by television compared with about 4% for online. Another survey found that 57% of Americans think mainstream media is more interested in profit than telling the truth. Continued negative perceptions about cable news could lead audiences to shrink further in the coming years.
Sports Remains Valuable Cable TV Content (For Now)
- Sports viewing on cable increased 22% in January 2023 (Nielsen).
- ESPN increased viewer numbers by 11% in 2021 and 14% in 2022 (Nielsen, via Variety).
- Affluent Americans spend more than $20 billion on sports expenses annually (Ipsos).
The sporting calendar's big moments - such as the World Cup, the Olympics, and collegiate championships - remain a big draw for serious fans to watch, and are often reflected in the Nielsen ratings. For instance, 2023 kicked off with a 22% jump in sports content consumed on cable TV, led by the NFL playoffs.
Sports television is also a promising avenue for marketers to reach well-off consumers. Ipsos found that affluent Americans spend more than $20 billion on sports-related purchases each year, with 86% of them dubbing themselves sports fans.
ESPN continues to be a top player for sports in the cable TV space. The iconic channel has maintained a large audience in recent years, even as some more specialized sports channels experienced dips. By Nielsen numbers, ESPN was the sixth-most watched channel across both broadcast and cable in 2022.
Traditionally, many highly watched events have been gated to cable TV packages, but that could be a changing trend. More media companies are willing to pay a premium to bring that valuable sports content to streaming. For instance, Apple will pay $2.5 billion for a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer and $595 million for a seven-year contract with Major League Baseball. If this trend continues, sports may start to see the same fragmentation as scripted programming, with different leagues in exclusive deals with different platforms.
TV is at an inflection point, and so are the many brands that rely on sharing their message on the biggest and most engaging screen in audiences’ homes. But this change is far from a frightening proposition. With the right CTV advertising platform on your side, you can achieve better results, automate and optimize your campaigns, and radically transparent data to make your next campaign even better.
tvScientific offers the most sophisticated performance advertising platform for CTV, and we’re happy to bring it to your brand regardless of size. Contact us today to learn more.