Can TV Sustain Its Political Momentum?

Politics on TV has earned your attention — the good, bad, and indifferent. TV advertisers would agree.

Four years ago, we probably didn’t see any of this coming — heighten fear, excitement and controversy. And presidential tweets. Lot of them.

News consumption has soared for many TV cable news networks and other platforms — with many breaking records.

For example, the average prime-time cable TV news network viewership spiked 71% in October to 10.1 million Nielsen-measured viewers in live program-plus-same day time-shifted viewing.

Fox News Channel was up 139% to a cable network-leading 4.9 million average viewers. MSNBC was 45% higher to 2.7 million viewers, CNN up 116% to 2.5 million. These three news networks are the top three among all cable networks.

But what happens next? Can TV news networks maintain keen viewership over the next four or eight years?

Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman/CEO of Fox Corp., told media analysts on Tuesday: “The news stories that are out are sort of out of our control. I would expect as we enter a more normal news cycle, that appetite for news will shift back to appetite for the great American pastimes.”



Murdoch hopes viewing will flow back to NFL football for example, scripted and un-scripted prime-time entertainment, content that is on other Fox Corp. platforms, including the Fox Television Network.

Concerning news, the key, he says, is to maintain news TV share going forward — especially as more news media platforms look to hone in on longtime legacy news content platforms.

When asked about new entrants into the news environment, Murdoch said: “We have always thrived with competition, and we have strong competition now. I would say the only difference today versus some years ago, as our audience has grown and our reach has grown, we see our competition as no longer only cable news providers.”

Murdoch says Fox News Channel has recently seen advertising revenue up 36% —- with much coming from political marketing.

Though local TV stations have always commanded virtually all political TV advertising, national TV networks have been growing with political ads. MediaRadar says $425 million in political advertising was spent on national TV networks, digital and print national TV networks between January and October. The largest spike came in October, which hit $170 million.

The bigger question is whether TV viewers will be more discerning — as professional journalists/fact-checkers need to be. And will specific TV news platforms suffer as a result from weakening viewing and perhaps more modest advertising results.

Are more TV news surprises coming, like what we have seen between 2016 and 2020? It’s only day one of a new political TV season.

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