Local television in the U.S. saw massive change in 2013, change that remained under the radar of most Americans. Big owners of local TV stations got substantially bigger, thanks to a wave of station purchases. While the TV business profited, the impact on consumers is less clear and seems to vary from one market to the next.
Bucking a long-range trend of declining viewership, the audience for local TV news grew in all three major time slots in 2013.
The rush to acquire local television stations produced revenue growth for some media companies in the year’s third quarter, while others suffered losses tied to a plunge in political ad dollars.
The latest data on local television economics offers mixed messages: increasing revenue from news programming but cuts in newsroom budgets.
While the economics of local television are stronger than those of the newspaper industry, a new Pew Research Center report analyzes why some trends in local television news may be worrisome.
The long slow decline in viewership of local television news resumed in 2012 after a brief respite the previous year. While stations devoted more of their available air time to local news, that wasn’t sufficient to halt the decline in viewership. Early-morning newscasts continued to gain viewers, but that increase was more than offset by losses in most other time slots.
As far back as 2004, Pew Research Center wrote that local news on the radio “appears to have seriously eroded in recent years” with a growing number of stations that “are not local at all.” Then in 2006 we wrote, “Technology is turning what we once thought of as radio into something broader – listening,” and raised the question of what that would mean for radio news. Now, heading into 2013, those two shifts have come together to create a very different audio landscape—one in which news is relegated to a smaller corner of the listening landscape.
The news programs that Americans watch on national cable channels and their local television stations have changed significantly in recent years while the network evening newscasts have remained remarkably stable, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center.
Depending on the local news topic, urban residents are more likely to use mobile and online sources, while suburbanites are most heavily into social media and rural residents are more inclined to word of mouth sources. A joint PEJ-Pew Internet report offers more about how people get local news in specific communities.
A snapshot of the profiles of the different types of communities studied.