Seemingly coming out of nowhere, TV network news programming has seen a rise in viewers in 2011 after years of declines. While big news events have been a contributing factor, new digital devices could be fueling big traditional TV news awareness.
For the first time in more than a decade, TV network news climbed -- a hike of 4.5% on average or 972,700 in 2011 -– to an overall three-network average of 22.5 million, up from 21.6 million, per the Pew Research Center study of news media for 2012.
“NBC Nightly News," the industry leader, grew the least with 2.9% or 250,500 to 8.75 million average viewers. ABC’s “World News” added 5.3% or 398,200 viewers to 7.82 million, and “CBS Evening News” grew 5.8% or 325,000 to 5.97 million.
The survey notes that ABC’s newscast with Diane Sawyer closes its gap with NBC, and that CBS –- with Scott Pelley taking over for Katie Couric in June -- grew immediate new sampling from viewers.
Somewhat surprisingly, there were more traditional TV news viewers watching, those 25-54.
The analysis says the growth was to some extent because of major news, such as the Arab Spring; the death of Osama bin Laden; a major political shooting in Tucson; a royal wedding in Britain; and a tsunami in Japan. The study says contributing to the uptick is that unique visits to digital sites at ABC and CBS grew during 2011 -- although they dropped at the MSNBC Digital Network.
Pew says since 1980, the three commercial evening newscasts have lost about 28.4 million viewers, or 54.5% of their audience. While TV cable news is a factor, Pew says that “more than twice as many people watch the lowest-rated broadcast evening news program (‘CBS Evening News’) than watch the highest-rated cable news program (‘The O’Reilly Factor’ on Fox News).”
TV morning news shows also grew in 2011 -- for the first time in seven years.
Overall, morning TV shows were up 5.4% to 13.1 million viewers from 2010. NBC’s “Today” grew 3.2% to 5.4 million viewers, still the TV morning news show leader. ABC’s “Good Morning America” added 12% to 4.8 million; and CBS’ “Early Show” was virtually flat, inching up 0.2% to 2.9 million viewers.
Looking at comparable median news viewership on cable networks, the report cites Nielsen, saying the viewership of CNN, Fox News, HLN, and MSNBC was up 1% for daytime and 1% in prime time. Analyzing just prime time, the study says CNN was up 16%; MSNBC, 3% higher; Fox News, off 3% (but still the overwhelming leader); and HLN, down 11%.