Cartoon Network: Netflix Is Hurting Our TV Ratings

Adventure Time Emmys

Ratings for Cartoon Network 10% lower in Netflix households after Turner licensing deal, according to analyst

Children’s cable programmers are playing a losing game of arbitrage by cutting deals with Netflix.

That’s according to an analysis of ratings for Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoon Network by Sanford Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger — and while the network admitted Netflix did cut into TV ratings, the drop was not as steep as its worst-case scenario.

In January 2013, Turner inked a deal with Netflix that included shows on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. Now nearly half of programs running on Cartoon are also available on the streaming service, including “Adventure Time” (pictured above), “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Powerpuff Girls” and “Cow & Chicken.”

Since Cartoon Network content became available on Netflix on March 30, ratings in Netflix households have been 10% lower versus viewership in non-Netflix households. Adult Swim viewership is 18% lower among Netflix homes.

“If there was anybody out there who still didn’t believe that SVOD hurt kids ratings, this should put a final end to that debate,” Juenger wrote.

Overall, Cartoon’s ratings have dropped 23% from April to July on a year-to-year basis and the trend is getting worse, according to Juenger, with July ratings down 40% from the year prior.

In a statement, Cartoon Network said it had previously assumed that providing kids content to Netflix would cause a decline of 3% to 5% in viewership nationally. In fact, the Bernstein report shows that overall, the network’s ratings dropped overall by 3% because of Netflix, based on the assumption that 30% of Cartoon’s viewers subscribe to the service.

“Our own more recent analyses and the most recent Bernstein analysis confirm a national impact of about 3%” because of Cartoon shows becoming available on Netflix, the network said.

Meanwhile, according to Cartoon, any other ratings declines are not because of Netflix. The drop in ratings is largely attributable to the loss of returning hits such as “Ninjago” in the first part of 2013, the network said. Most of Cartoon’s newest series are debuting at the end of the summer going into the fourth quarter (such as “Uncle Grandpa,” which bowed Sept. 2).

Juenger has floated the hypothesis that Netflix deals are a bad bet for kid TV nets before. In an April 2012 report, he found TV ratings among Netflix subscribers grew year-over-year 2% for Viacom networks and 6% for Disney’s — compared with ratings increases of 6% for Viacom and 11% for Disney in non-Netflix households.

SEE ALSO: Netflix Flexes New Muscle with ‘Breaking Bad’ Ratings Boom

For other genres, TV ratings can actually benefit from past seasons being available on SVOD. AMC Networks, for example, saw ratings of “Breaking Bad” grow 50% in season four, with viewership for the fifth and final season airing now still climbing, according to president and CEO Josh Sapan, speaking Wednesday at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. All past seasons of “Breaking Bad” are available to stream on Netflix.

For Cartoon, the tradeoff of lost TV audience versus incremental subscription VOD revenue is probably slightly positive as the network appears to be making a few million dollars net from the Netflix deal.

But that short-term gain is shortsighted because licensing deals will help Netflix and other SVOD services gain traction and potentially fuel cord-cutting, Juenger argued.

“Consumers will be encouraged to embed SVOD more deeply into their habits,” he wrote. “The consumer value of the pay-TV bundle erodes, jeopardizing the entire ecosystem.”

Viacom has the most to lose from kid auds migrating to SVOD, while Disney is largely protected given its small amount of ad revenue on kid channels and its on-demand apps, Juenger wrote.

Juenger’s analysis used data obtained from TiVo’s StopWatch measurement service to compare TV viewing in households that subscribe to Netflix and those that don’t.

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  1. Jen says:

    There’s only one season of each of the CN shows on Netflix. Turner has withheld all the other seasons. How is that a real threat?

  2. ltaylor says:

    Dead Cartoon network- Don’t blame netflix- blame cable company packages. I have a “kid/family” package with ATT….andddddd cartoon network is not a member of said package. CARTOON NETWORK… lol.

  3. Junro says:

    Well, since they stopped airing their best action/superhero show, “Green Lantern: The Animated Series,” of course their ratings are going to fall. Maybe that’s why they aren’t responding to Netflix’s requests to allow streaming of GLTAS? Only the execs know. Pouring money into comedy-saturated shows is another way to lose viewership; many people want to invest their time in a grand narrative with beautiful art and animation, not be bombarded by joke after joke after joke. There, my two cents left in the realm of the net.

  4. Steve says:

    Maybe its because the cartoons you broadcast suck ! Boomerang isn’t much better. Many people enjoy the good Looney Tunes (not the looney tunes you are trying to push), just really good cartoon characters. At least let Boomerang show good cartoon, and not just Scooby, The Flintstones and the Jetsons. Believe it or not , there is a pretty wide scope of cartoons out there. Change your line up some.

    • Re'Nell says:

      Unfortunately, not as long as Stuart Snyder (current CEO of CN since 2007) is in charge. Besides, Boomerang (unfortunately) has newer stuff now, such as Ben 10: Omniverse, Almost Naked Animals, and at times, they aired DC Nation (during the time CN took it off the air without warning or notice back on Oct. 13, 2012 and replaced it with Dragons: Riders of Berk, Johnny Test, and, at one time, Beywheelz), and new episodes of Grojband and Johnny Test at 3AM!!! Adult Swim DID bring back Toonami last year, but only shows it from 12m-6a, when we’re already asleep. After shows like Green Lantern, Young Justice, and Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Inc. were done, I was done with CN/AS/Boomerang altogether. Oh, and CN/AS air EVERYTHING in 16:9 now; no more 4:3 for ANY show.

  5. William Hanna and Joe Barbera had the fortitude to forge their own path, and they created an unforgettable studio, then came Ted Turner, who then turned it into a network. If they were around today, and if Ted was at the helm, they would be forging into the svod iptv distribution model also; more-than-likely Ted would have had the foresight to have been one of the first iptv channels up on ip. Joe and Will knew art and audience and guided WB til death. Cartoon Network, under the WB, who has forayed into live action, began to dilute its own brand; then by not greenlighting and grooming the new producers, failed to acquire and embrace new talent and new programming. Remember, a studio is only as good as the studio executives in charge. Maybe it’s time they put in some new blood or enticed some of the old blood like the extremely talented creators and Producers like Donovan Cook, Genndy Tartakovsky, Craig McCraken and some of the great Producers like Diana Ritchey and Shareena Carlson. What would Hanna and Barbera do? They’d find a way to make more cartoons and make more money! Cartoon Network…embrace and lead the IPTV, SVOD distribution model; syndicate your old product, make new product specifically for the new model because THE CORD CUTTERS ARE YOUR AUDIENCE! TV everywhere and the mobile convergence are here to stay. Monetize via your IPTV deals, app and dashboards, and IP ad placement and watch your audience and company grow, Joe and Will and Ted would be proud!

  6. Steve S says:

    Your headline is a bit sensational since it’s the analyst who’s claiming that Netflix will “kill” viewership of Cartoon Network programs. Cartoon Network is in fact saying that while TV viewship is down by 3%, the downturn is more than offset by the Netflix fee being paid. I suspect what is hurting Cartoon Network is repeating old program on its own network, plus adding it to a new platform. Even if Netflix didn’t exist, who wants to watch the same program 16 times (except for the various iterations of Law & Order and for NCIS)?

    • Cartoon Network acknowledged not only that the Netflix deal contributed to a decline in ratings but that it *expected* that to happen. The 3% decline in ratings is what Cartoon (and Bernstein) are directly attributing to viewing on Netflix. The much bigger declines — again, according to Cartoon — are because the network had not had any hit shows.

  7. FrankM says:

    If the Simpsons were on VOD, and you could choose any of the “classic” episodes from seasons 3-12, you’d probably choose to watch that instead of Fox’s current season. Then Fox would say “having the Simpsons on VOD is hurting our ratings”.

    No, having new programming that is sub-par is hurting your ratings. At least by licensing your old content, you are getting a fee and competing with yourself instead of another company for viewers.

    Step up Cartoon Network. Improve your programming.

  8. John M says:

    It’s pretty simple… give us something good, and we’ll watch. In a world where there are many more ways to get what we like… on demand… second-rate shows and tired re-runs aren’t going to cut it. CN, Nick, Disney… time to up your game!

  9. rcurrlin says:

    By my calculations, based on Nielsen Kids 2-11total day ratings, Cartoon Network was down 16% year over year in second quarter ’13, the initial quarter of the Netflix deal. However, in first quarter ’13 (pre-Netflix), they were down 13% YOY.

    Perhaps the ratings drop is attributable to bad programming or overworn reruns???

  10. Dave Baxter says:

    SVOD is going to gain traction no matter what. The networks can either figure out how to make it work for them, or fade away, albeit slowly. Good on Cartoon Network for beginning the SVOD experimenting, but they’ll have to have some heart-to-heart talks with the SVOD networks to find a way forward that can benefit both. But even then, the gravy train of the Networks reigning supreme is done, son. No amount of “encouragement” or otherwise is going to effect that.

  11. Jeff says:

    Personally from what I’ve seen of Cartoon Network (which is limited by what my God Daughter watches), they’ve managed to hurt their own ratings with horrible shows and consistently cancelling any good programs that manage to make it through the cracks. Also comparing one shot cartoons that tell a complete story in 30 minutes to shows like breaking bad and other programs that take an entire season to tell a story is a bit unfair. True some shows like Avatar: the last air bender have managed to do it. When watching a show that takes an entire season to tell a story I become invested in it, I want to see the next episode and not miss it where as one shot shows I really don’t care if I see it or not. As for SVOD, the technology is here, it has been for years and years. It’s not going to go away, and maybe if these cable companies actually made it worth what they charge more people would go to them. Frankly it sounds like they’re angry because they aren’t the only game in town anymore. The same thing happened to the music industry when they refused to embrace new technologies.

    • Re'Nell says:

      And remember what they did to DC Nation last October (if you don’t, CN quickly took it off the air on Oct. 13 last year and replaced it with Dragons: Riders of Berk (and at one point, Beywheelz) on Sat. and Johnny Test on Sun; during the hasty and unnecessary extra hiatus, they put DC Nation on Boomerang, minus Green Lantern: The Animated Series), and they’ve even put newer stuff on Boomerang, a channel meant for classic cartoons; newer stuff such as Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville, Pink Panther and Pals, Almost Naked Animals and Ben 10: Omniverse. Boomerang has even aired new episodes of shows like Johnny Test and Grojband at times like 3am and new movies like Delgo and Pokémon the Movie: Kyurem vs. the Sword of Justice.

  12. Guest 1 says:

    I highly doubt Netflix had anything to do with it. Have you seen a lot of what they put on the channel (with the exception of some things on Adult swim) ? Pure rubbish. I’ve checked out some of the animated shows they’ve come out with & they were horrible.

    • I agree, Uncle Grand-Pa isn’t all that bad. But Almost Naked Animals (Fun theme song though), Johnny Test, and the overly milked Ben 10 are unbearable to watch. It’s something I can’t stomach. Uncle Grand Pa is funny and I enjoy the imagination in it. Why they took away Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and the Dc shows is beyond me. Cartoon Planet is horrible with those cartoons that are not from the past. Cartoon Network is at a state of denial at this point because they can’t pull their heads out of their A’s….. I love watching Cartoon Network and give every Cartoon they put out a chance, but some of these shows are unforgivable and stupid.

      • Re'Nell says:

        Well, Ben 10: Omniverse, in addition to the original Ben 10, as well as Almost Naked Animals, are also now on Boomerang, a channel meant for CLASSIC CARTOONS!!!!! Wanna see something REALLY UNFORGIVABLE?! Remember when CN took DC Nation off the air last October (CN’s 20th anniversary month) and replaced it with Dragons: Riders of Berk, Johnny Test, and at one point, Beywheelz, and told people DCN would return in January (“Hey, DC Nation fans! Have you heard? DC Nation will return in January with all new episodes!”) After GL, YJ and Scooby-Doo!: Mystery Inc. were done, I was done with CN, Adult Swim, and Boomerang altogether.

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