Local TV News Quandary: How To Broaden Viewer Reach

Young TV/media consumers still don’t watch much local TV news, while older U.S. viewers still consume lots of it. Is there any hope for this dynamic changing? 

For the most part, older U.S. TV watchers, 50+, as well as those with a high-school education or less, and minorities, prefer local TV news (more than 50% say that), according to a recent Pew Research Center report. Those 18-29? Only about 26% prefer to get news by local TV.

Pew results came from a survey of 35,000 adults between Oct. 15, 2018 and Nov. 8, 2018.

This is occurring as we continue to see TV stations putting more emphasis and expansion into local TV news content.

The study also confirms what many might know about younger media consumers' news consumption. Digital news platforms are the places they go for local news stories. Some 60% say those 18-29 get their news this way, and 26% from a TV set.



Then, ask yourself about future trends of the local TV news business — or traditional TV news content overall — when it comes to the “influence” local news media has. When looking at all survey respondents, 37% said "a lot" and 61% responded "not much."

What, if anything, needs to change?

Some might look to the younger-skewing cable/media news platform Viceland. The hipper-looking, mostly millennial-hosted content, as a possible model in future years. But much of Viceland, from its Vice Media origins, continues to focused on documentary and reality series content, not breaking daily news.

What about future digital ad revenues for local TV content owners? That is still a work in process for the industry as a whole. Some of this has to do with current subscription fees trends: Few U.S. adults, 14%, pay for local news, and among 18-29ers, that number is 7%.

Where, then, do TV news stations go? Should they firm up more partnership deals with existing big digital platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or Instagram?

All you need to know is in reading this pressing news flash: Pew says millennials, those born from 1981 to 1996, will overtake baby boomers (73 million to 72 million) as the largest adult population group in the U.S.

4 comments about "Local TV News Quandary: How To Broaden Viewer Reach".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, August 23, 2019 at 9:20 a.m.

    Wayne, two comments. First, it is most unlikely that future millennials will become moderate or even frequent "hard news" viewers---they just don't care to know about most of what is being reported---wars, economic issues, health care problems, politics, etc. Second, news---as currently constituted content-wise---is a major profit maker for the 24/7 cable news channels as well as local TV stations. In addition to tons of older age-oriented "pharma" spending, it attracts a great many tech and upscale advertiser revenues---travel, banks, utilities, car dealers, etc. who pay premium CPMs to bask in the "news atmosphere". Why ditch all of that to chase fickle 18-34-year olds with programming that might appeal to their interests but drive away many of your current, more mature viewers?

  2. John Keegan from eMarketer, inc., August 23, 2019 at 1:10 p.m.

    Long-term ratings declines in the 18-34 segment are sharper than the 35-49 segment, which are sharper than the 50-64 segment, which are sharper than the 65+ segment. To a certainty, this indicates that the 35 or younger crowd will not automatically age in to watching local news. Younger demos by nature use smartphones in lieu of traditional programming staples -- weather, traffic & sports -- making local news unnecessary where once it was necessary. Station groups ought to aggressively research attitudinal data & test program concepts with younger consumers, if the goal is to eventually make them viewers. The other option is to, for a while longer, milk the 55+ ratings for continued pharma and political activity, while the other categories disappear. Even pharma & political will eventually erode if the programming does not adapt in a big, fundamental, relevant way. 

  3. Matt Filippi from WICU12 replied, August 26, 2019 at 2:39 p.m.

    This article would be more useful if it showed what the historical trend of 18-34 has been... because young folks never were very interested in news until they got older.

  4. Suzanne Sell from Independent, August 26, 2019 at 8 p.m.

    This has been the case for many decades—18-34s are far less likely than their elders to watch news. 18-24s are busy in college, the military, and bar-hopping with friends. Later, as they establish their own households and careers, they begin to watch. Their viewing grows as they form families and become more interested in the communities they live in. I don’t see any reason why this trend is likely to change.
    However, the competitive field has changed dramatically. News is the top revenue source for local stations, but news is also available 24/7 on many other platforms. TV stations have to offer many more newscasts each day, and must constantly update their own apps. Meanwhile, station groups are swallowing each other, which results in staff changes and cuts. You’re right that it’s not a pretty picture—but you can’t blsnr this on the millennials!

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