Streaming may drive Nickelodeon woes

A new study could fuel growing suspicions that Netflix is the cause of ratings downturns for cable programming targeting children.

A Bernstein Research analysis of viewing patterns in Tivo homes during the first quarter of 2012 found Nickelodeon’s viewership is up 2% in non-Netflix homes while down 6% in homes that watch Netflix. There may even be a drag on kid-oriented nets that don’t even license to Netflix, including Cartoon Network, which is up year-over-year in Netflix homes, but not as high as it is in non-Netflix homes.

“Our TiVo data cannot prove Netflix is to blame for the entirety of the Nickelodeon problem, but it certainly indicates that Netflix had something to do with it,” wrote Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger.

Other kinds of programming that Netflix usage seems to impact includes off-net series programming. But it wasn’t all bad news, as Netflix homes didn’t affect overall consumption levels of linear TV, and in the case of original series programming, may actually help.

Ratings for AMC, which exclusively licenses several of its original series to Netflix, are 15% higher in homes with Netflix than non-Netflix homes.

Netflix has contended that its service gives viewers more opportunities to sample programming in its first window by providing older episodes that let them see what they’ve missed. Asked about the study, Netflix declined comment.

Last year, Nickeldon registered double-digit ratings declines, prompting speculation that Viacom may have fueled cannibalization of the channel’s audience by licensing content to Netflix.

Juenger predicted Nickelodeon will curtail the amount of content on Netflix when its contract comes up next year.

“We believe the obvious implication for the kids’ networks, if their internal data looks anything like ours, is

they should get out of these Netflix deals as fast as they can,” he wrote.

The data in the Bernstein analysis comes from TiVo’s Power Watch service, which relies on an opt-in panel of approximately 35,000 TiVo subscribers. Premium channels including HBO were not part of Bernstein’s analysis.

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