Cable Ratings 2015: 'Walking Dead's' AMC, CNN Among 4 Channels to Gain Viewers as Rivals Drop

Better Call Saul - Bob Odenkirk - H 2015
Lewis Jacobs/AMC

The networks — alongside a handful of others including HGTV and E! — saw primetime growth, while A&E, MTV, FX and USA trended in the opposite direction.

A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

With rare exceptions, "fatigued" again was the watchword for cable networks in 2015. Ratings plummeted across the board, and with all but December taken into account, AMC stands as the lone top 10 net to post significant growth.

"It could easily have gone as wrong as it did right," admits AMC and Sundance TV president and GM Charlie Collier, whose flagship net is up 10 percent in the key demographic thanks in part to the year's three biggest launches: Fear the Walking Dead (6.3 million adults 18-to-49), Better Call Saul (4.4 million) and Into the Badlands (4 million). "If I had to take anything away from 2015 and apply it to 2016, it would be to keep investing in that kind of creative."

AMC also benefited from the launchpad of its megahit The Walking Dead. But the overabundance of scripted options, touted by FX chief John Landgraf in August, as well as the continued struggles of cable's unscripted bread and butter proved insurmountable for others. Executives continue to push time-shifting, noting many ratings losses have been recouped with live-plus-7-day returns, but most of the networks down in live-plus-same-day remain off by just as much once DVR views are tallied. (Comedy Central, which has seen primetime fall 27 percent in same-day, remains down 25 percent after a week of delayed viewing.)

"There's a ton of viewership that's not being measured," says one exec in reference to piracy, streaming and other TV vehicles not folded into conventional ratings. "Every study says that hours of content is being consumed, but it's like we're saying people who watch a show on the eighth day don't matter."