US cable movie consumption on rise
The quantity of movie content on US basic cable hit a three-year high in 2013, accounting for nearly 15 per cent of all airtime in 2013, up from 14 per cent in 2011, according to a new report – Movies on Basic Cable 2013 – from IHS Technology.
However, fewer unique movies were broadcast in 2013 compared to the previous three years, indicating that films were being rerun more than ever before.
Led by films from Fox, a total of 89,623 hours of movie content was shown on US basic cable in 2013. This represented an increase of 1,180 hours from 88,443 from 2011.
The research firm describes this gain as “significant”, especially in the context of overall movie hours being made available by the medium. Even though the total number of hours for movie content fell slightly in 2012, the airtime percentage for movies on basic cable remained nearly the same as in 2011, at roughly 14 per cent.
This year, total airtime is projected to be even higher, representing an increase in both movie hours and airtime share.
“Cable networks are seeing the benefit of airing movies that get better non-primetime ratings than some TV shows during the same time slots,” said Erik Brannon, senior analyst for television media at IHS. “Drawing in viewers during non-primetime hours is proving valuable, especially during the summer months when more people are at home during the day.”
Comedy was the genre of choice in both 2012 and 2013, unseating drama, which had accounted for the largest number of hours in 2011. The most-played movie in 2013 was Fox’s 1993 release Mrs. Doubtfire starring Robin Williams, which was played 66 times across five networks, according to IHS data.
Newer content—i.e., movies unveiled after 2000—is considered more valuable. However, a few marquee titles from the 1980s and 1990s continue to enjoy repeat runs, because they are cheap and unrestricted. In particular, the FX channel has been very aggressive in acquiring basic-cable first-run rights to many blockbuster movies, even securing those rights while movies were still playing in theatres.
Independent studios accounted for 78 per cent of post-2000 movie airtime in 2013. In comparison, big-budget films from the major studios take several years for their restrictions to loosen and become widely available—a peculiarity that doesn’t apply to the majority of independent movies.
The top studios identified
For the third straight year Fox was the most prolific producer of movies airing on basic cable, accounting for nearly 6.5 per cent of all movie airtime in 2013. Warner was in second place.
Fox and Warner are the top two producers of movies on basic cable by a wide margin, and are likely to remain in the lead for some time to come. The two studios secured their lead by having the luxury of outputting their content on owned dedicated movie networks: Fox Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies. Fox depends more on its movie network than Warner, as 50 per cent of Fox producer airtime was aired on the Fox Movie Channel.
Both Viacom and Comcast/NCBU do not have a movie channel on basic cable but field movies to their properties and non-owned networks—to Comedy Central and Syfy for Viacom and AMC Networks for Comcast/NCBU.
For its part, MGM fell out of the top five last year because it produced no new movies, but the studio continues to draw from the long tail of its extensive catalogue. Sony, meanwhile scored big as Ghostbusters claimed the most replays in the third and fourth quarters last year.
Disney prefers to keep everything in-house, selling a big portion of its movie content to sister networks Disney Channel, ABC Family and Disney XD.
Among basic cable stations, AMC remained a key outlet for action, even in the face of great success coming from original TV shows developed by the network such as The Walking Dead and Mad Men. “AMC sees significant value in relying on movie content to make up the majority of its non-primetime TV schedule,” Brannon added.