With kids channel Nickelodeon suddenly experiencing double-digit ratings drops in the fourth quarter last year, a debate began swirling as to whether streaming of the Viacom-owned channel’s shows on Netflix was dispersing its audience.
That discussion has broadened quite a bit in recent months. Last week, for example, The New York Times pondered whether the most recent viewership declines for the Big Four broadcast networks were in part attributable to on-demand viewing through digital platforms including Netflix and Apple’s iTunes. Conversely, last month, TV analysts wondered whether the record season-premiere numbers for AMC’s long-running series Mad Men were partly the result of new viewers discovering the older seasons of the series on Netflix.
On Thursday, Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger released some hard data on these pressing issues. Collaborating with his former employer, digital video recorder maker TiVo, Juenger and his Bernstein colleagues found that among homes that regularly stream Netflix programming, viewing of linear kids’ channels — and not just Nickelodeon — took a hit.
“Turns out, Netflix streamers watch just as much traditional TV as non-streamers,” Juenger wrote in his report. “However, there is a significant share shift among streamers. Kids’ networks (not just Nickelodeon) and syndicated shows are getting severely whacked.”
For the study, Bernstein pulled out about 9,500 Netflix streamers and 9,500 non-streamers from a sample of about 35,000 TiVo set-top users.
Analyzing viewership of the two groups over the first quarter, Bernstein found that usage among streamers of Nickeloden’s flagship channel dropped 6 percent from the year-over-year average; viewing also declined a whopping 11 percent for Nick Toons and Teen Nick. For non-streamers, ratings actually grew 2 percent for Nickelodeon, 5 percent for Nick Toons and 26 percent for Teen Nick (a huge 37 percent differential).
Among streamers, ratings increased 11 percent for Disney’s boy-targeted XD channel, but they grew far more — 27 percent — among households that don’t stream. The dynamic was the same for the Time Warner Inc.-owned Cartoon Network, which saw viewership increase by 9 percent among the streaming group but 12 percent among non-streamers.
Conversely, Netflix’s claim that it’s a source of “catch-up” viewing for serialized cable dramas like AMC’s Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead seems to carry some weight, with Bernstein finding that AMC’s ratings grew 86 percent in Q1 for streamers but only 71 percent for non-streamers.
Also positively impacted: the Big Four broadcast networks. Bernstein found that ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC each performed better slightly among households that stream (see chart).
However, Bernstein also discovered that Netflix viewing made consumers much less likely to watch repeats of shows in off-net syndication, with the streaming group declining in off-net viewing by about 19 percent compared to 9.7 percent for non-streamers.