Local news output is up at stations across the U.S.,
according to the Pew Research Center study, but viewership is down across all
key dayparts. Almost half of those surveyed say they watch local news
regularly, but the future is dim for local TV content; "regular" news
viewers under 30 dropped from 42% in 2006 to 28% in 2012.
"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
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
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.