How’s this for an ironic twist: The Pew Research Center is reporting that the local TV newscasts if ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC affiliates across the United States are continuing to show viewership declines, even as stations are increasing the amount of the local news content they broadcast.
According to Pew, which analyzed Nielsen results for its report, “late” news (10 or 11 pm) suffered an 11% decline to 20.3 million viewers across the United States during 2016.
Early evening news (5 or 6 pm time slots) lost ~9% in viewership, dropping to 22.8 million viewers.
Morning news? It didn’t fare any better, falling a similar ~9% to just 10.8 million viewers.
But despite these continuing declines, there’s scant evidence that local station executives see local news as a losing proposition.
Instead, they appear to be doubling down on it, figuring that local news is one of the few remaining points of differentiation against online news sites that usually don’t provide very much in the way of in-depth local coverage.
Underscoring this, according to a survey conducted by the Radio-Television-Digital News Association and Hofstra University, local TV stations averaged 5.7 hours of news programming per weekday during 2016, which is up slightly from 5.5 hours in 2015.
Stats aside, one has to wonder how much longer local news can continue to be a differentiating factor for local TV stations? Those very same stations are creating their own competition by operating robust websites of their own. And of course, many people have become quite adept at punching their own zip codes into weather apps to obtain “micro-local” weather information.
Sports? There are thousands of websites and apps available that provide fingertip results and stats down to the most minute level of detail.
Furthermore, as the older population “ages out,” the notion of sitting down at a prescribed hour every day to watch the news on television is likely to go the way of newspapers. Which is to say, an inexorable slide into irrelevance.
It just isn’t how the world operates any longer … even if one is 60 or 70 years old.
More statistics from the Pew Research Center report can be accessed here.