With 2015 winding down, it’s time for cable networks to look back and see what worked and what didn’t over the past year. The ratings are better for some channels than others, but most didn’t fare too well in the ratings game in 2015. There were four cable networks in particular that had significant drops in viewership, and the numbers don’t look too good if things don’t change for 2016. Check them out.
A&E: - 23%
MTV: - 20%
FX: - 19%
USA: - 19%

There are reasons why these percentages, as shared by The Hollywood Reporter, might not necessarily reflect the complete number of viewers tuning in. DVR tallies are not counted in initial measurements, and Live+7 returns don’t take into account viewers who just happen to take longer to get around to hitting up their DVRs. Other viewing options such as streaming and downloading are not always consistently included in the traditional ratings scale, and networks must even consider whether or not online piracy is making a dent in viewership. In any case, live numbers are the ones that generate revenue from advertisers for the networks, so it’s no surprise that the market is more concerned with live than with delayed.

Overall, it’s unlikely that small variables are enough to account losses of 20%, and the four networks with such major drops may need to change things up for the future. Some larger factors that may have played into the 2015 struggles for A&E, MTV, FX, and USA are an overabundance of original scripted options that aren’t feeling quite so original anymore, as well as unscripted reality series that have begun to feel repetitive and stale. Without bona fide mainstream breakout hits to draw attention to the network as a whole, the channels have been slowly falling behind in the cable ratings race.

The networks should not give up hope. The younger demographic for MTV has been known to bounce back on its own, FX has the critically acclaimed Fargo to bolster its lineup with some quality programming, Mr. Robot had a solid first season on USA, and A&E… keeps on trying. There’s always more Wahlberg material to be mined, right?

2015 just wasn’t a great year of ratings for most cable channels, but the double digit percentage drops of A&E, MTV, FX, and USA mean they will have something of an uphill battle to become competitive again in 2016. It remains to be seen whether or not they will put together solid enough lineups to draw in regular viewers, or manage to produce a megahit to give exposure to lesser known programming, but there can be little doubt that the four channels will be doing something different to try to make up for the losses in 2015.

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