TV stations are counting heavily on local news programming in the coming years — even as their viewership continues to drop.
All four main local TV newscasts sank in 2016 versus 2015, when looking at combined viewership on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates, according to Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen results for the four sweep periods.
Late news sank 11% to 20.3 million in 2016, from 22.8 million the previous year. Morning news fell 9% to 10.8 million from 11.9 million. Early evening news lost 9%, from 22.8 million to 20.7 million.
These stats represent an ongoing downward trend since 2007 -- in which late news has dropped 31%, early evening news 19% and morning news has lost 12%.
This has occurred as TV stations increased local TV news content in 2016. According to the RTDNA/Hofstra University survey, local TV stations averaged 5.7 hours for news programming per weekday, up from 5.5 hours in 2015.
On the upside, seven major publicly held local TV station companies — Tribune Media, Nexstar Media Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Tegna, Gray Television, Media General and E.W. Scripps — reported higher political advertising revenues, partly as a result of their TV news content.
These station groups collectively reported a total of $843 million in political advertising revenue, up from $696 million in 2014 and $574 million in 2012.
Overall, local TV station revenue was up 11% to 20.6 million in 2016 versus the year before. Total digital advertising revenue increased 10% in 2016, reaching a total of about $1 billion.