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Cartoon Network: Netflix's Latest Ratings Victim?

Kids' Network Has Plunged 23% Since Netflix Deal, Analyst Says

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Could Cartoon Network be the latest children's cable channel to feel the pinch of Netflix?

'Batman: The Brave and the Bold' is on Cartoon Network... and streaming on Netflix.
'Batman: The Brave and the Bold' is on Cartoon Network... and streaming on Netflix.

Since making its content available on the streaming platform earlier this year, ratings in households with the service have dropped 10% compared to those without a Netflix subscription, according to Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger. Adult Swim, the nighttime cartoon programming block on the channel, has fallen 18% more in Netflix households than elsewhere, he said.

"If there was anybody out there who still didn't believe SVOD [streaming video on-demand] hurt kids ratings, this should put a final end to that debate," Mr. Juenger wrote in a note.

Cartoon Network's total-day ratings in the period from April through July plunged 23% from the period a year earlier, according to Mr. Juenger. Ratings in July were 40% lower than in July 2012, he said.

Cartoon Network had been the holdout among its peers in offering its content on streaming platforms, striking its first deal with Netflix in March that makes about 50% of its programming available on the service. Before that, its ratings had been trending higher in Netflix households than rivals Nickelodeon and Disney Channel.

Netflix has only minimally affected Cartoon Network ratings, which were affected more by other factors, a spokesman said in response to Mr. Juenger's note.

"Based on earlier analyses done ourselves and by Bernstein, we assumed that providing our kids content to Netflix could cause a decline of 3-5% in viewership nationally," the spokesman said in an email. "Our own more recent analyses and the most recent Bernstein analysis confirm a national impact of about 3%."

"Any other declines are not due to Netflix and were also anticipated in part because we knew we would not have such hits as Ninjago returning in the first part of the year and a lot of our new content would be debuting at the end of the summer going into the 4th quarter," he added. The new series "Uncle Grandpa" this month has helped the network match its ratings a year earlier for the first time since March, he said.

Networks have generally argued that streaming programming doesn't necessarily hurt ratings to a significant degree.

Nickelodeon has been steadily recovering from a ratings hiccup that was previously cited as evidence of harm from streaming shows like "Dora the Explorer" on Netflix. July marked the sixth straight month of year-over-year ratings growth, with an average of 982,000 children 2-to-11 tuning in to the channel daily, a 19% increase from the year prior.

But Netflix's broad deal with Nickelodeon parent Viacom expired in May, meaning Netflix stopped streaming "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Dora the Explorer" in the spring. Netflix has been moving away from striking bulk, non-exclusive deals. Viacom instead reached an agreement with Amazon Prime in June.

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