April 29, 2015

State of the News Media 2015

Local TV News: Fact Sheet

Last updated April 2015

Local television stations enjoyed a year of higher revenue and slightly higher viewership in 2014. Growth in advertising revenue largely resulted from increased political advertising spending. Viewership increased in two of the three key time slots, following gains from the previous year.

Audience

At local network affiliate television stations, viewership in 2014 increased slightly in morning and early evening time slots – 2% and 3% respectively compared with 2013, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. Late night newscasts lost 1% of their audience. The numbers were much better for nontraditional dayparts. Very early morning news remained the biggest growth area, with 4:30 a.m. newscasts seeing a 6% boost from the year before. Stations also continued to experiment with news at 4 a.m., starting and stopping newscasts at that time throughout the four sweeps months. In February, for example, 22 ABC affiliates aired news at 4 a.m., but only four were doing so in November. News at midday posted 8% growth, while local news at 7 p.m. Eastern time or equivalent (after the network news or early evening local news) was up more than 10%.

Local News Viewership Increases in Early Evening and Morning News; Slight Decline for Late Night News

Year Late Night News Early Evening News Morning News
2010 25.296 23.912 11.641
2011 26.062 23.609 11.800
2012 24.226 22.020 11.255
2013 24.252 22.736 11.965
2014 23.902 23.309 12.166

Source: Nielsen Media Research
Note: Numbers represent ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates.

Pew Research Center

The 2014 picture was more mixed for local Fox affiliates. Morning newscasts gained 5% more audience on average in 2014, after a 9% increase in 2013. Since 2010, Fox morning newscasts have increased their average viewers 13%. But the hourlong newscasts aired at 10 p.m. Eastern time or the equivalent lost 4% of their audience in 2014, for a total loss of 17% since 2010.

Prime-Time Fox Local Newscasts Continue to Lose Viewers

Year Prime-Time viewership, in millions Morning News viewership, in millions
2010 6.459 2.249
2011 6.209 2.259
2012 5.637 2.228
2013 5.571 2.433
2014 5.330 2.548

Source: Nielsen Media Research
Note: Numbers represent Fox affiliates only.

Pew Research Center

Economics

Local TV stations continued to fare well economically. Much of this is due to political advertising spending, which after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling seems to guarantee windfalls to local TV stations in even-numbered years. In 2014 total on-air ad revenue for local stations reached $20 billion, according to consulting firm BIA/Kelsey, up 7% from the year before and down 3% compared with 2012, the last election year.

News-producing stations account for the disproportionate amount of the on-air ad revenue. While 68% of all TV stations produce their own news (812 out of 1186 viable, commercial and English-language stations), they accounted for 84% of the on-air revenue in 2013, the most recent year for which station-level data are available ($15 billion of the total $18 billion).

Online revenue still accounts for a tiny portion of the total – BIA/Kelsey estimates just 4% in 2014 ($800 million). That percentage is not projected to grow much over the next five years.

Local Broadcast TV Advertising Revenue Grew in 2014

Year Online Over-the-Air
2004 22.4
2005 21
2006 22.8
2007 21.5
2008 20.3
2009 15.8
2010 0.4 19.4
2011 0.5 17.9
2012 0.6 20.3
2013 0.7 18.4
2014 0.8 19.7
2015 0.9 19.4
2016 1 21.3
2017 1.1 20.7
2018 1.3 22.1
2019 1.4 21.9

Source: BIA/Kelsey
Notes: 2014 is an estimate. 2015-2019 are projections. Online revenue numbers are not available prior to 2010.

Pew Research Center

To get a sense of how much of the ad revenue at these news-producing stations goes to news programming, we consulted another dataset. Survey responses from news directors across the country indicate that half of the revenue news-producing stations make comes from local news (RTDNA surveys).

Share of Total Revenue Produced by News Hits a New Record

Year % of share
2002 39.7
2003 46.1
2004 42.8
2005 44.9
2006 42
2007 45
2008 43.5
2009 44.7
2010 46.8
2011 48.2
2012 48.6
2013 50

Source: RTDNA/Hofstra University Surveys
Notes: Based on survey responses of news directors at all commercial local TV stations in 2013.

Pew Research Center

Other sources of revenue for the local TV industry have been growing. Retransmission payments have been increasing rapidly in the past decade, according to data from SNL Kagan. In 2014, retransmission revenue were estimated to reach almost $5 billion, and SNL Kagan projects that this figure will nearly double by 2020.

Retransmission Fee Revenue for Local Television Signals Expected to Continuously Grow

Year Retransmission fee revenue, in U.S. billions
2006 0.2
2007 0.3
2008 0.5
2009 0.8
2010 1.2
2011 1.8
2012 2.4
2013 3.6
2014 4.9
2015 5.9
2016 6.7
2017 7.5
2018 8.2
2019 8.8
2020 9.3

Source: SNL Kagan estimates
Notes: Last updated October 2014.

Pew Research Center

News Investment

The average amount of weekday local TV news programming declined by 6 minutes in 2013 to 5 hours and 18 minutes, following a drop of another 6 minutes from the year before, according to RTDNA.

Average Number of News Hours per Weekday Hits a Plateau

Year Average number of news hours per weekday
2003 3.7
2004 3.6
2005 3.8
2006 4.1
2007 4.1
2008 4.6
2009 5.0
2010 5.3
2011 5.5
2012 5.4
2013 5.3

Source: RTDNA/Hofstra University Surveys
Note: Based on survey responses of news directors at all commercial local TV stations in 2013.

Pew Research Center

Staffing levels in the local TV sector were down slightly in 2013, the last year data are available, according to an annual Hofstra University survey. The survey identified 27,300 full-time jobs in local television news – down about 400 jobs from 2012. Local TV newsroom salaries rose 2% in 2013.

News Staff Salaries Stagnant in 2013

News Staff 2012 2013
News Director 85 85
Asst. News Director 65 65
News Anchor 64 62.5
Weathercaster 55 55.5
Sports Anchor 45 45
News Producer 31 31
Graphics Specialist 31.8 35
News Reporter 30 31
News Writer 36.5 32
News Assistant 28 30

Source: RTDNA/Hofstra University Surveys
Notes: Based on survey responses of news directors at all commercial local TV stations in 2013.

Pew Research Center

Ownership

The rush by media companies to acquire local TV stations continued in 2014, but at a slower pace. In 2014, 171 stations changed hands, at cost of about $5 billion, according to BIA/Kelsey. The year before, local TV station sales exploded, when nearly 300 TV stations were sold, up 193% from 2012, reaching a total value of $ 9.7 billion. (BIA/Kelsey has updated the 2013 numbers, bringing the total value to $9.7 billion from $8.8 billion in January 2014, when Pew Research Center last updated the data.)

Local TV Mergers and Acquisitions Slow Down

Year Total value of local TV mergers and acquisitions (billions of U.S. dollars)
2000 8.8
2001 4.9
2002 2.529
2003 0.52
2004 0.872
2005 2.842
2006 18.127
2007 2.899
2008 0.537
2009 0.714
2010 0.199
2011 1.102
2012 1.891
2013 9.712
2014 4.626

Pew Research Center

More Data

Local TV: Very Early Morning (4:30 a.m.) News Viewership

Local TV: Value of Mergers and Acquisitions

Local TV: Share of Total Revenue Produced by News

Local TV: Morning News Viewership

Local TV: Newsroom Staff Levels

Local TV: News Stations Profitability

Local TV: News Staff Salaries

Local TV: News Viewership by Key Time Slot

Local TV: Midday (12 pm) News Viewership

Local TV: Fox Affiliates Morning News Viewership

Local TV: Broadcast Advertising Revenue

Local TV: 7 p.m. Newscast Viewership

Local TV: Late Night News Viewership

Local TV: Fox Affiliates Prime-Time News Viewership

Local TV: Early Evening News Viewership

Local TV: Average Number of News Hours per Weekday