The ratings woes at Viacom's kids cable network Nickelodeon have received lots of attention lately, but one media analyst warns that the picture is not that much brighter at MTV.
Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. analyst Todd Juenger noted in a report that ratings at MTV declined 32% in the third quarter compared with the same period a year ago. On top of that, the hit "Jersey Shore" is wrapping up, and finding other shows that can pick up the slack won't be easy.
"We believe MTV is in for a very tough year," Juenger said, adding that he anticipates more double-digit rating declines at the channel.
To be sure, MTV's ratings were down in the third quarter in part because of competition from NBC's Olympics coverage. Also, "Jersey Shore" is running in the fourth quarter of 2012 rather than the third quarter, which is where it was last year.
However, Juenger expects the ratings to continue to struggle in the fourth quarter even with Snooki and the Situation back on the air. "The train wreck just isn't that much fun to watch anymore," he said. Furthermore, Juenger added, MTV's newer programs including "Awkward," "Ridiculousness" and "Teen Wolf" have "definitely not grabbed pop culture attention."
MTV and Nickelodeon are not the only Viacom networks that had a tough third quarter. Spike, Comedy Central and BET were all off 13%. The only Viacom cable network to see an improvement in third quarter ratings was VH1, which was up 5%.
Juenger's report comes at a time when Viacom's stock has been on a roll. It hit an all-time high Tuesday when it closed at $56.64. A new distribution deal with DirecTV for Viacom's cable networks and optimism about a ratings rebound at Nickelodeon have played a part in encouraging investors.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.