Pew Study: Local TV Viewing Declines Across the Board
Big challenges to overcome for stations to stay relevant
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/18/2013 12:01:00 AM
"The long slow decline in viewership of local television news resumed in 2012 after a brief respite the previous year," says the study, titled "Local TV: Audience Declines as Revenue Bounces Back." "While stations devoted more of their available air time to local news, that wasn't sufficient to halt the decline in viewership."
Some 48% of respondents deemed themselves "regular" watchers of local news in 2012, down 2% from 2010 and 6% from 2006. Regular viewing in the 18-29 age group slid 14% from 2006 to 2012.
Morning, early evening and late news all saw viewership declines in 2012, though the study's authors noted that television viewing in general is down. Morning news, for years a leader in viewership growth, was off 4.6% at 5-7 a.m. in 2012. Early evening was down 6.7% from 2011 to 2012. The 11 p.m. news fell 7.4%.
News airing 10-11 p.m. on Fox affiliates, meanwhile, dropped 9.2%.
Midday news viewing, for its part, slipped 2% in 2012, while 7 p.m. news watching fell 5%.
One bright spot is early a.m. news. The 4 a.m. slot grew 19% and 4:30 viewing increased 13% in 2012, yet even the latter was "a far cry from the triple-digit increase the year before," said the study.
Pew looked at Nielsen ratings for the February, May, July and November sweeps.
The numbers are harrowing for local TV executives. Local news represented 48.2% of a station's revenue in 2011, said the study, citing RTDNA/Hofstra University.
Digital revenue is not a savior. While it grew 10% in 2012, that is less than half the growth rate of the prior year. The typical TV station makes 3% of its revenue from online and mobile ads.
Stations' share of local online advertising, up against newspapers, radio and other media with an online presence, stayed flat in 2012 at around 12%.
Stations continue to crank out local content. They averaged five hours and 30 minutes of homegrown news per weekday in 2011, reported RTDNA/Hofstra. Such figures don't yet exist for 2012, but almost a third of news directors expected to add news in 2012, and none surveyed predicted cutting news time.
"There is every reason to expect that 2012 [will] set another record," said the study.
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