State of the News Media 2016
Network News: Fact Sheet
Last updated June 2016
For audiences of network TV news divisions, the picture over the past year was a mixture of ups and downs. Viewership was stable for evening newscasts and rose for Sunday morning political talk shows, but declined in morning newscasts and news magazine programming. On the financial side, however, a clearer picture of increases emerged: collectively across the three networks, evening and morning newscasts saw their advertising revenue grow substantially in 2015.
Combined average viewership for the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts remained stable, up 1% in 2015, to nearly 24 million, according to Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. This follows two years of continuous increases – up 5% in 2014 and 2% in 2013. This is mainly due to strong gains by CBS and ABC in January and February 2015 (compared with the year before), when major news events took place including the attack on the offices of the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, as well as domestic news such as the jury selection for the Boston Marathon bombings.
Among the three, NBC was the only one of the evening news programs to lose viewers in 2015 – a 4% decline that coincided with the departure of former anchor Brian Williams and the transition to Lester Holt. ABC World News and CBS Evening News both saw a 4% growth in average viewership.
Viewership for morning newscasts dropped 2% in 2015, to about 13 million on average, placing it back at 2013 levels, after having gained 2% in 2014. Among the three, CBS This Morning recorded a 12% increase to an average of 3.7 million viewers in 2015, while the Today show (down 5%) and Good Morning America (down 7%) experienced declines. Overall, the three networks’ morning shows – ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today show and CBS’s This Morning – have gained a minimal 2% since 2008. However, there are large differences among the three networks. The Today show has lost 17% of its viewers since 2008, whereas the other two have experienced strong gains – 15% for Good Morning America and 17% for This Morning.
Sunday Morning Talk Shows
The combined average audience for the Sunday political talk shows on ABC, CBS and NBC in 2015 was 9.3 million people, up 8% from the year before. All three shows – CBS’s Face the Nation, ABC’s This Week and NBC’s Meet the Press – saw viewership increases. Face the Nation attracts the most viewers (a total of 3.3 million on average) of the political talk shows, but Meet the Press closed the gap seen in previous years with about 3 million viewers on average in 2015, amounting to a 13% increase in the past year.
In addition to the three networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), Fox Broadcasting Company has provided its broadcast affiliates with a Sunday morning talk show for the past 20 years. Fox News Sunday airs at the same timeslot as the other three Sunday morning talk shows. In 2015, the show expanded its audience adding about 100,000 viewers on average, up 10% from the year before and following the same positive trajectory as the other three shows. Combined viewership for all four political talk shows grew 8% from the year before, adding about three-quarters of a million viewers in 2015.
TV News Magazines
Audiences for most television news magazine programs continued to decline in 2015. Combined viewership for the six shows aired by the networks – 60 minutes, 48 Hours, 20/20, Nightline, Dateline Friday and Sunday – dropped 5% from 2014. Since 2008, these news programs have lost 16% of their viewers.
Advertising revenue estimates for the three evening news programs saw increases in 2015.
According to advertising revenue estimates from Kantar Media, combined revenues for the evening broadcast news programs were up an estimated 6% from 2014 for the first three quarters of 2015. Since 2012, evening news revenues at NBC, CBS and ABC have grown 12%.
The networks also saw a 14% growth for the morning news programs from the previous year, bringing the total advertising revenue to an estimated $809 million dollars for the period of January-September 2015. Over the past three years, morning news programs have generated 11% more in revenue.
The networks continue to invest in digital, as more young people turn to digital platforms for their news. In August 2015, for instance, NBCUniversal formed partnerships with Vox Media and BuzzFeed in an attempt to reach younger audiences.
As with other media sectors, comScore data suggest that the three networks’ web presences are increasingly mobile with all three having more visitors from mobile devices than from desktop computers in the fourth quarter of 2015. This was true also for the same period in 2014. However, visitors still spend more time with these brands on desktop computers.1 (For this analysis, Pew Research Center analysts worked directly with comScore to identify and remove from the sample web entities whose traffic shifts over time were the result of changes in how those entities are measured by comScore, rather than organic changes in audience behaviors.)
- Data provided by comScore includes both desktop and mobile traffic via websites and, where available, associated mobile apps. ComScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform and Desktop only, minutes per visit and unique visitors, October-December 2014 and October-December 2015, U.S. ↩