MORE FACT SHEETS: STATE OF THE NEWS MEDIA
While television remains the most common place for Americans to get their news, with local TV outpacing cable and network TV, local TV news saw its audience decline across most time slots studied this past year. Financially, local TV companies generated less revenue in 2017 than in 2016, though this is consistent with a cyclical pattern in which revenue rises in election years and falls in non-election years. Explore the patterns and longitudinal data about local TV news below.
In 2017, viewership for network local affiliate news stations (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC) declined in key time slots – morning (6 a.m. to 9 a.m.), early evening (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.) and late night (11 p.m. to 2 a.m.), according to comScore StationView Essentials® data. The average audience (defined as the average number of TVs tuned to a program throughout a time period) for the morning news time slot decreased 15% in 2017. Local TV average audience for the late night and early evening news time slots also declined (7% for both). Audience for the midday news time slot (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) declined 4%, while evening news remained relatively stable.
Average audience for local TV news
- Key time slots
- Noon and 7 p.m.
In 2018, Pew Research Center began using data from comScore StationView Essentials® for this audience analysis, and as such, the current fact sheet includes figures for only the past two years. Previous versions of this fact sheet included data stretching back to 2007 and used data from Nielsen Media Research. Those data are available in the 2017 archived fact sheet. Because of various differences between the two sets of data points, figures from prior years are not directly comparable with the data shown here.
Local TV station revenue typically follows a cyclical pattern: increasing in election years and decreasing in non-election years. In 2017, a non-election year, local TV over-the-air advertising revenue totaled $17.4 billion, a 13% decrease over 2016, according to Pew Research Center analysis of MEDIA Access Pro & BIA Advisory Services data. In comparison, local TV advertising revenue in other non-election years was $18.1 billion in 2015 and $18.0 billion in 2013.
Total digital advertising revenue for local TV stations increased 3% in 2017 (reaching a total of about $1 billion). Digital advertising revenue accounts for a small portion of total ad revenue.
Advertising revenue for 830 local TV stations defined as “news-producing stations” (i.e., stations that have a news director and are viable, commercial and English-language affiliates in the U.S.) was $14.1 billion, which is 81% of the total $17.4 billion revenue for the local TV industry overall, according to the BIA Advisory Services database.
Revenue from retransmission fees – the fees paid by cable and satellite systems to carry local channels – has been increasing rapidly in the past decade, according to estimates from Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence. In 2017, retransmission revenue reached over $9 billion, up from $8 billion in 2016, and Kagan projects that this figure will reach $12.8 billion by 2023.
Six major publicly held local TV station companies – Tribune, Nexstar, Sinclair, Tegna, Gray and Scripps – report political advertising revenue separately from other types of revenues in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings. In 2017, the six companies reported a total of $112 million in political advertising revenue, compared with $124 million in 2015 and $50 million in 2013, the two most recent non-election years. (Data points for 2012-2016 also include Media General, which was purchased by Nexstar in 2017.)
Roughly 29,000 employees worked as reporters, editors, photographers or film and video editors in broadcast TV newsrooms in 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics. Median wages for editors in 2017 were about $54,000, while for reporters the figure was about $51,000. (Broadcast TV newsroom employment and wage data includes both national and local TV broadcasters. For details, see the methodology.)
Employment in broadcast TV newsrooms
The average amount of weekday local TV news programming was steady in 2017, according to the RTDNA/Hofstra University survey. Local TV stations dedicated an average of 5.6 hours to news programming per weekday in 2017, similar to 5.7 hours in 2016.
In 2017, 107 local TV stations changed hands at a cost of $4.7 billion, as annually reported by BIA Advisory Services. This is down from $5.3 billion across 97 stations that experienced changes in ownership in 2016. (This does not include Sinclair’s proposed purchase of Tribune, which has not yet been finalized.)
Find out more
This fact sheet was compiled by Associate Director Katerina Eva Matsa and Research Assistant Sophia Fedeli.
Read the methodology.
Find more in-depth explorations of local TV news by following the links below:
- Fewer Americans rely on TV news; what type they watch varies by who they are, Jan. 5, 2018
- Americans’ online news use is closing in on TV news use, Sept. 7, 2017
- Buying spree brings more local TV stations to fewer big companies, May 11, 2017
- Trump, Clinton Voters Divided in Their Main Source for Election News, Jan. 18, 2017