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Cable TV "Thinks Big" And Has Ratings To Prove It

Monday, 19 May 2008 | 4:02 PM ET
Cable TV
Cable TV

The theme of this year's National Cable and Telecommunications show is "Think Big." Even though this year's show in New Orleans is smaller than previous years, the theme makes sense.

Cable ratings are bigger than ever, as are ad dollars, and distribution is broader than ever. And cable offers two key revenue streams: affiliate fees plus ad dollars.

That means media giants love their cable divisions. Nearly two thirds of Viacom's revenue last quarter came from its cable division, which showed 16 percent growth. ESPN and Disney Channel are consistent growth drivers for Disney .

Time Warner's Turner and TNT are growing fast as evidence by this past season when some of their hit shows even beat the networks' ratings. And even Viacom is now starting a premium cable channel with content from Paramount, Lions Gate and MGM . And stand alone cable companies--like Discovery Holdings and E.W. Scripps --are hot. Both are up year-to-date and have outperformed the Dow.

Cable has benefitted from the writers' strike by adding viewers bored with networks' reruns and reality TV during the post-strike phase this spring. Cable has also benefitted from the overall trend towards content fragmentation. Viewers now want shows targeted to their partivular interest in bathroom remodelling or show cats, and there's room for it all on the seemingly infinite cable channels.

And year after year cable's viewership and ad dollars grow. Though the upfront ad sales period was just last week, it seems this year will be no exception on that "front."

Cable Show-Time for Viacom CEO
All eyes are on media companies with the biggest focus on cable, like Viacom. Details with Philippe Dauman, Viacom CEO and CNBC's Julia Boorstin

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.