- NBC was the only one of the big four traditional TV networks to show prime-time TV program ratings gains over the last 12 months, according to MediaPost.
- NBC saw a 4% lift for the 18-49 year-old demographic. Its numbers were boosted by the Rio Olympics and its Sunday Night Football package.
- Those gains are in contrast with prime-time TV program ratings declines for ABC (11%), CBS (3%) and Fox (7%). After removing sports and live news programming from the equation, all four networks posted declines in prime-time TV viewership over the last 12 months.
Linear TV is gradually losing its grip on video viewership — and if it weren't for live events and news programming, the big four TV networks' viewership declines would be even sharper.
NBC was only network to gain in prime-time ratings, but its increase was built on sports coverage — for both Sunday Night Football and the Olympics. The latter gave the network 17 days of exclusive content that was ultimately a ratings disappointment over the 2012 London Olympics, despite the Rio games being in a more favorable time zone. However, NBC saw improvements in its live streaming and just-streamed video content, especially among the cherished 35-and-under demographic.
Despite the losses from the TV networks, video content remains a powerhouse. The Olympic viewing trends demonstrate that people are searching out different (and increasingly digital) ways to watch live events. Those trends are particularly among younger demographics, who are turning to apps like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat over linear TV.
But the social media platform with the most potential to disrupt the TV networks' traditional hold on live video viewing may be Twitter. The struggling company is reinventing itself by betting big on exclusive TV content and live events, including deals to stream programs like Bloomberg News and 10 NFL Thursday Night Football games — a big draw for new users and advertisers alike. Only time will tell which company will win the race to bring live video to digital users, but one thing is clear: Online video streams are starting to eat into traditional TV viewership.