Local TV News, Losing Viewers, Seeks Bigger Mobile Identity

On CNN's new show "The Lead,” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "Obesity is going to kill more people than starvation this year." Too much of a good thing? Television can be like that.

But perhaps it is worse with local news. That's because stations have added more local news programming than ever while at the same time losing viewership, according to the Pew Research Center.

Too bad. Things were kind of looking up when Pew reported a slight uptick in viewership of network affiliates' newscasts in 2011. A year later all viewership gains were lost -- and then some.

How could stations so miscalculate this viewership? You have to believe the stations were convinced that their long-term existence, identity and future ad revenue growth relied on local news, not afternoon talk from Ellen DeGeneres, reruns of "Big Bang Theory" or tough legal outcomes from "Judge Judy."



Last year, viewership of key late local newscasts slipped 7% to around 25 million; early evening newscasst dropped by around the same amount to 22 million viewers.

We don't have specific revenues for the average TV news-producing station in 2012. But in 2011, they dropped to $19 million versus $21 million in 2010.  This was down from $34 million in 2000. (Total local TV advertising sales rose to $19.7 billion in 2012, from $17.9 billion in 2011.

Stations hope that in future years digital -- and especially mobile --- revenue will become a way bigger deal for their expensive and singular TV. Right now about 3% of station revenues come from all their digital platforms.

Will there be a market there? Local TV marketing executives believe their long-time big-brand call letters and affiliate names give them a big advantage over would-be competitors. While mobile is still the promised land, the advertising model for station’s digital online business -- their Web sites -- is still lackluster, even considering the higher-than-TV CPMs for premium video.

Stations are now looking at live streaming through TV Everywhere deals, possibly abandoning their more ambitious mobile DTV initiatives. Time may be on their side as the mobile business -- for both traditional media players and others -- is still in slow development concerning such factors as standard viewing metrics.

Trouble is, consumers are waiting around for local mobile TV to happen.

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