March 26, 2009

Local TV News Reports a Drop in Revenue, Ratings

In 2008, local television remained the most popular source of news in America. More than half of the U.S. public (52%) told the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that they regularly watched local television news. But the number of people who watch local TV news has decreased over the last decade. Even more surprising, falling ratings and falling revenue befell the sector in an election year.

Viewership of local news declined or was flat across all timeslots in 2008, a continuation of the audience erosion first observed two years earlier. Affiliates of the four major networks saw sharp audience declines in both evening and late-night news, while ratings for morning newscasts held steady. The trend towards shifting timeslots or adding newscasts to adjust to changing lifestyles and viewing habits seems to have slowed in 2008, as struggling stations made fewer scheduling changes.

To learn more about the major trends in radio in 2008, read the Local TV chapter of the State of the News Media 2009 report, which offers specific analysis of the eight main sectors of media and special reports such as the Year in the News, Lessons from the Election, a study of citizen media sites and more.

Chart Source: Nielsen Media Research, used under license
Chart Note: Numbers represent ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates