Thanks in part to major news events during sweeps, local news ratings bucked a recent trend and posted viewing increases in 2013, according to a study from Pew Research Center. The 5-7 a.m. slot grew 6%, 5-7 p.m. increased 3%, and 11 p.m. was flat, at .1%.
Pew Research analyzed Nielsen data in the sweeps months of February, May, July and November. The latter saw the largest viewing gains and featured the president’s healthcare rollout and severe weather in multiple parts of the country.
The story of 2013 in local broadcast was consolidation. “While it is impossible to know whether the 2013 numbers are a harbinger of a new spurt of audience growth,” said Pew, “they coincide with a wave of consolidation that has seen bullish media companies—from Gannett to Tribune—buy up large groups of stations.”
The study findings run counter to recent declines in local news viewing. “Even including 2013, the morning newscasts—the most consistent viewership performer in local news—has lost 3% of its audience since 2007,” said Pew. “The decrease from 2007-2013 in early evening news viewership has been more dramatic—12%. And overall, the late night newscasts have lost about one-sixth of their viewers (17%) in that time period."