Commentary

TV Cutbacks Everywhere - But Not News

It wasn’t that long ago that TV news programs appeared somewhat less than thrilling to viewers and advertisers. Now? It’s a roller-coaster ride. 

Traditional TV networks and stations could count on a steady, if smaller, supply of viewers. But those viewers comprised older demographics -- ages 25-54 or 60+. A broadcast news unit could include a evening news show, a morning news show, and some semi-special prime-time series. But that’s all.

Then cable news network took hold in the late 1990s, early 2000s. And in the last two years, with the Trump Administration, its profile got higher.

So why invest more in news now -- especially with young-skewing digital apps? Well, it's because, as with everything digital, the viewers are younger -- for almost everything. So for CBS’ CBSN, the average median age of 38!  

That’s not the high 50- to-60-year-old audience that currently exists in the traditional linear TV world when it comes to prime-time programming at major English-language networks. Even better, it’s not the 65-year-old median age of MSNBC and Fox News Channel on their respective traditional linear cable TV networks.

So for CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox, this is your future. Consider that one of Fox’s priorities for the “New Fox” company is its news programming -- including its big Fox News Channel, which pulled in around $2 billion in advertising sales and affiliate fees.

Ask yourselves what business-development executives are looking for in the long term -- younger news viewers.

Would AT&T sell CNN because of Trump Administration pressure in that direction, in order to get approval for the Time Warner deal?  Randall Stephenson, chairman-CEO of AT&T, said the company never, ever thought about selling CNN when considering a Time-Warner acquisition.

Almost two years into a renaissance of TV news programming, which has been a key content piece since the dawn of TV in the late 1940s, news is a sure bet.

Let’s go to a reporter at the scene -- or some loudmouth opinion-maker in the studio.

1 comment about "TV Cutbacks Everywhere - But Not News".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 26, 2018 at 11:21 a.m.

    Wayne, the main reason why CNN and the Fox News Channel as well as MSNBC are such attractive ownership items is their huge gross profit margins---like about 45-50%---which are based almost entirely on carriage fees paid by cable systems, satellite and telcom distributors. It doesn't matter that their average minute audience is very heavily weighted towards the 50+ segment. They carry so much commercial clutter---especially outside of primetime--- that they make a mint. As for the digital versions, which, no doubt, attract a younger audience---hence a more "desirable" one for some types of advertisers--- their ratings are, at best, very, very tiny and hardly represent a budding opportunity to rake in the big bucks---not yet at any rate.

    One additional point about TV news in general. In the 1950s, the TV networks offered 15-minute nightly newscasts, plus political interview shows likeĀ  "Meet The Press" on Sundays and NBC's "Today Show" with some competition by CBS in the early AMs. That was hardly a major programming effort. Most network affiliated stations were also content to air 15-minute early news shows and similar 11PM entries----but that was it. News only became an important money maker for most network affiliated stations in the 1960s, as they replaced their early and late show movies, which had run out of rating steam, with half hour and sometimes longer local newscasts, but news represented only about 5% of network ad revenues until all three contenders moved heavily into the early morning and late night space, while taking over portions of primetime for newsmagazine entries like "60 Minutes" in the late 1960s and 1970s.. For those interested in the evolution of TV news content ----which is a most interesting story---I cover this in considerable detail in my book, "TV Now and Then" which is available via my Media Dynamics Inc website.

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