Commentary

Post-Trump, A New Era Of TV News

TV news viewing -- across local, national and cable -- for the better part of 2020 -- commanded a growing major share of all live TV viewing. And we all know why: social unrest, a presidential election (and controversy) and crucial pandemic news.

But where does it go for here, especially with President Biden? Perhaps with less drama and incendiary tweets, but the pandemic has yet to recede.

In November 2020, 43.5% of 13.1 billion live gross impressions went to TV news content -- well above the 30.5% level in November 2019, according to Nielsen.

Higher TV news usage had helped during their period: Delays in new fall season prime-time programming and a weakened sports TV marketplace, all due to the pandemic.

Prime-time programming pulled in a low 18.8% share; sports, a 17.1% share during the month. A year before, it was 23.5% and 23.6%, respectively.

TV news content actually had an even higher share in April 2020, the first full month of COVID-19 and U.S. economic turmoil -- a 45.1% share of total live gross impressions for the month, 14.3 billion.

One thing we know will continue to grow: Streaming programming/on-demand entertainment content.

Linear TV entertainment stuff? The prospects aren't good, especially when streamers such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+ are poised to continue to spend billions on content. This would also now include theatrically intended movies and more premium films overall.

Linear TV networks’ entertainment, unscripted and scripted programming, will still be around. But for many, it may be seens as secondary, almost shoulder-like programming.

Local news content continues to be strong -- especially where some political/social unrest looks to increase.

There will still be remnant Trump news around for sure -- if not from Trump rallies and lesser social-media missives, than from a number of state and other court cases headed his way.

All that means more importance and value when it comes to local TV stations producing news content.

Nielsen notes, for example, that on Jan. 6, during the U.S. Capitol insurrection, person-level live program plus time-shifted viewing rivaled Jan. 3, 2021, the final Sunday of the regular NFL season -- typically a big day for the sports league. Both January 6 and January 3 took in top numbers relative to other periods: 26% of U.S. TV viewers and older watched TV on both days.

U.S. TV viewers also love their streaming shows -- Disney+ “The Mandalorian,” Netflix’s “The Crown” and others -- but they might want to stay highly informed, as they have for the past four years.

If anything, the last few weeks have put us on notice: We can’t just gaze into space avoiding real-world news or sit on the sidelines. There are consequences.


1 comment about "Post-Trump, A New Era Of TV News".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, January 22, 2021 at 10:26 a.m.

    Wayne, I believe that Nielsen is referring to adults aged 25-54 because it has bought the silly notion that this is the key news audience demo when, in fact, Nielsen's own data shows that adults 25-54 account for only 20-25% of TV news consumption. Couple that with the use of the term "impressions" and one wonders if that means "ad impressions"---in which case the ad clutter ratio---very high on cable news in particular---has something to do with the findings. Also, they are saying that this applies to "live" viewing----as news has virtually no delayed exposure while prime time has a considerable amount---mainly on the broadcast TV networks, this, too, slants the findings in favor of news. And, by "news" I assume that the early AM shows are counted  as "news" shows and, perhaps, the weekend political interviews as well. My point is that we shouldn't assume that "national and local news is as dominant regarding total"TV" usage as this report suggests. However, I do agree with those who say that the combination of "news" and sports content is a primary reason why so many people are reluctant to cut the cord on "pay TV"---as such fare has been very sparce on streaming venues until recently. What happens as more streamers sign on to the packages being offered by Disney, NBC, CBS, etc---which include  national and local station news and some sports---- remains to be seen.

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