The television landscape is more fractured than ever, and while this means that viewers have more choices than ever before once they hit the recliner after a long day, it also means that some channels will see declines in viewership. And, if you think that the Big 4 networks are the only ones seeing declining viewers, you'd be wrong. Some cable channels lost impressively large numbers of eyeballs in 2018, and here are the ones that might need to start revising their lineups lest they be totally left in the dust.
First on the list is OWN, which is also known as the Oprah Winfrey Network. Oprah has admitted herself that she wasn't expecting how difficult it would be to get a network off the ground, and now we can see that keeping viewers is quite a task, as well. According to Deadline, OWN lost 14% of its viewers from 2017, even with the network sticking with the type of programming that it's become known for since 2011. With a specialty of soapy drama (Greenleaf), reality shows (Chad Loves Michelle), comedies (The Paynes), romance (Love Is __) and Oprah's patented brand of make-your-life-better shows (Iyanla: Fix My Life), you'd think they'd found their niche. Maybe 2018 just wasn't OWN's year, and they'll be able to recover by the end of 2019.
It would appear that finally launching a Sons of Anarchy spinoff didn't do much to help FX out this year, because the cabler also lost 14% of its viewers this year. Even though Mayans M.C. was one of the most popular new cable shows in 2018, it wasn't big enough to keep viewers around. Neither, it would seem, did having a long-running comedy (It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia), award-winning comedies and dramas (Atlanta, Fargo) or buzzed about series that are not for the faint of heart (American Horror Story, Legion).
Lifetime has often been the butt of many jokes because of the network's tendency to favor melodramatic woman-in-peril types of stories, and while the woman-focused channel has branched out with its programming in recent years, viewers aren't happy with something that's being done. Lifetime viewership was down 15% in 2018, despite its new drama (You), reality staples (Dance Moms, Married at First Sight) and a yearly spate of made-for-TV holiday romances and, yes, more you-in-danger-girl movies than you can shake a remote at.
The ratings juggernaut that was The Walking Dead has faltered a bit in recent seasons, and this may have helped AMC lose 15% of its viewers in 2018. Aside from TWD and the spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, though, the channel simply doesn't have many dramas (The Terror, Better Call Saul), comedies (Dietland, Lodge 49) or fantasy / sci-fi shows (Preacher, Humans) that really have the kind of major buzz or runaway popularity that would keep people on AMC, or bring new viewers in.
The network formerly known as ABC Family went through a rebranding a few years ago, and it might be possible that the new name of Freeform hasn't set well with those looking for young adult appropriate entertainment. Freeform still focuses on comedies (grown-ish, Alone Together), dramas (Siren, The Bold Type) and fantasy (Cloak & Dagger) shows that should appeal to those in the teen and early adulthood set, but had 17% of viewers head for the hills this year.
If you thought the previous drops in viewership were surprising, hold on to your butts. Nick Jr., which specializes in programming for kids 7-years-old and younger, has seen a precipitous drop in 2018, with an astounding 27% of viewers screaming, crying and otherwise throwing tantrums until someone changes the channel. As a fully grown adult who adores animation, I can admit that every show listed on Nick Jr.'s website looks adorable...and also as though they might annoy anyone over 10 if they were a significant part of one's viewing day. So, are parents turning Nick Jr. off because they can't take the cuteness anymore? Those behind Nick Jr. might need to find out before these viewership numbers get any worse.
We may never know why people left these cable networks behind in 2018, but hopefully the loss in viewers will encourage those behind each of them to give the greenlight to some cool new shows for us to feast our eyes on in a year or two. Until then, be sure to check out our 2019 midseason premiere guide to see what's hitting the small screen in the near future.
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